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Tl’iishin Thliitsapilthim, n.d. painter unknown

Tl’iishin Thliitsapilthim, n.d. painter unknown (possibly Hamtsiit) [Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver BC, Jan 17-Mar 28] Courtesy of George Terasaki

Backstory: Nuuchaanulth Ceremonial Curtains

Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery
Vancouver BC – Jan 17-Mar 28, 2010

Ki-ke-in painting the thliitsapilthim

Ki-ke-in (Ron Hamilton) painting the thliitsapilthim (ceremonial curtain) of Ha'wilth Nuukmiis of the House of Iiwaasaht, Opitsat-h, Tla-o-qui-aht, in Vancouver, BC, winter 1988-89 [Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver BC, Jan 17-Mar 28] Photo: Haayuusinapshiilth

For thousands of years, the Nuuchahnulth peoples of Vancouver Island’s west coast have used painted ceremonial curtains to tell family stories. The panels, which often include images and information about a family’s history, spiritual pedigree, alliances and title deeds, serve as ceremonial backgrounds for marriages, mournings, memorials, coming-of-age and naming ceremonies, and events celebrating conquests and accomplishments.

Curated by UBC professor Charlotte Townsend-Gault, the Backstory exhibit brings together contemporary curtains by Ki-ke-in (Ron Hamilton) with historical curtains from museum and private collections in Canada and the United States. Motifs include coastal mountains, the sea, ancestral figures, supernatural beings and wildlife indigenous to the region including whales, salmon and other sea creatures. The narrative works are accompanied by photographs, documents and interviews.

Originally thliitsapilthim (ceremonial curtains) were painted on cedar planks or panels using locally derived pigments from charcoal, ochre and other minerals, and ground shells. Since the past century, ceremonial curtains have beenpainted on sail cloth or cotton by dedicated artists such as Tim Paul, the late Art Thompson, and Ki-ke-in, who describes them as “they are who we are.” A Nuuchaanulth living on the Ahaswinis Reserve in the Alberni Valley, Ki-ke-in has painted more than 80 pieces. With Jennifer Kramer, he is the co-editor of Charlotte Townsend-Gault's book, The Idea of Northwest Coast Native Art: An Anthology, to be published this year.


Mia Johnson

Kwaayats’iik (All Wolves)

Kwaayats’iik (All Wolves), c. 1900, painter unknown [Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver BC, Jan 17-Mar 28] Courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History

Ki-ke-in (Ron Hamilton) Wuu'yaakiihtuu Aytsaksuu-ilthim

Ki-ke-in (Ron Hamilton) Wuu'yaakiihtuu Aytsaksuu-ilthim (1988) [Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver BC, Jan 17-Mar 28] Courtesy of Wuu'yaakiihtuu, Gerri Thomas

 Wed, Feb 17, 2010