Gina suuda tl’l xasii

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This show is simply spectacular.

When I first moved home to Haida Gwaii from Vancouver I was lucky enough to be offered a job transcribing for the Haida Gwaii Museum.  I was inspired listening to artists speak so passionately about Haida Gwaii and Haida art. After having three jobs for one day, I got hired as a receptionist at the Haida Heritage Centre. I began my previous job at the Haida Heritage Centre when the Gina suuda tl’l xasii, Came to tell something in English, exhibit was under construction.

Staff worked tirelessly in the weeks before the exhibit. Haida Gwaii Museum Curator Nika Collison would leave work when the sun was coming up and return after a quick nap at home. Pieces were arriving daily, artists were being interviewed and the buzz was growing. All Haida Heritage Centre and Haida Gwaii Museum staff were asked to work during the Exhibition opening. We were all so excited to see the show and to have a reason to get dressed up!

The opening was jam-packed and I could sense the excitement in the air.

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Duane Alsop performing the Chief’s dance. 

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Kwiahwaah Jones singing the “Haida love song”

My favourite moment from the opening was hearing Kwiahwaah sing the Haida love song. Nika asked Kwi to perform the song. She did not have time to practice or warm up. Kwiahwaah worked with Nika as an intern at the Haida Gwaii Museum and is now a curator at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver. Kwi helped Nika hang the textiles for Gina suuda tl’l xasii and she did an incredible job. She sang so beautifully that tears were streaming down my face by the time that she finished.

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Master weaver Delores Churchill taught classes and gave lectures at the Heritage Centre.

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Evelyn Vanderhoop. 

Haida Weaver & Scholar.

Catered by the Kay Bistro, the food was delicious. Everyone was dressed up and looking slick and the programming was entertaining and informative. As I walked down the hallway I was so excited to see everything come together.

It was stunning. White walls and black lettering. Ulli Seltzer’s black and white photographs were placed strategically among the pieces. White display cases with incredible artifacts. Masks and coppers on the walls.

Textiles hung so expertly they looked as if they were in movement.

I took some photos before the guests arrived.

Gina suuda tl’l xasii includes pieces from

“the early 1800s through to the time of Bill Reid, alongside the worlds of over 35 contemporary artists-emerging to master- who have shared their knowledge and experience in the contract, use, traditions and spiritual connections of our numerous Haida art forms” 

-Nika Collison, Haida Gwaii Museum Curator

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This show instills a sense of pride and strength within us as Haida peoples. To be able to look at Haida art, its evolution and the role it had and still has in our lives is powerful beyond words. Watching people arrive to the opening dressed in their ravens tail regalia, cedar hats, decked out in their vests and shawls, wearing stacked gold, silver and copper is a beautiful sight to see.

Haida art is alive and well.

“Each generation we are getting stronger and stronger. That’s something that any culture in the world should celebrate — a sense of being, a sense of self, a sense of place, and the ability to communicate this through cultural expression”

-Nika Collison, Haida Gwaii Museum Curator

A major section of the temporary gallery is sectioned off with cedar rope.

Behind the cedar rope is the textiles section of the show.

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The show has been up at the Heritage Centre for almost four months now. When I was working at the Haida Heritage Centre I did not get to spend that much time looking through the show. I would walk by and catch glimpses of the pieces.

If I was working late I would get scared by the mannequins in the textile section.

They are very human like in stance.

Or I am a chicken.

You be the judge.

I went through the show with both of my parents, my best friend and my brother. Each of them said they would like to come back and spend a couple of hours reading over all of the materials. I went through the show with Nika and she talked about her vision, the process of putting the show together and the work she was doing on the catalogue.

I will spend more time reading all of the texts and studying each of the pieces. The Haida Heritage Centre is a twenty-minute walk from my house. I have no excuse for not taking the opportunity to learn from these pieces.

This stunning exhibition runs at the Haida Gwaii Museum until December 31st.

You still have time to visit the pieces and feel the power of Haida art.

“Each generation we are getting stronger and stronger. That’s something that any culture in the world should celebrate — a sense of being, a sense of self, a sense of place, and the ability to communicate this through cultural expression.”

– Nika Collison, curator at the Haida Gwaii Museum

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Written by: Michaela McGuire, Project Officer at GNC & HHC, Photographer, and new-ish Skidegate Resident.