Saahlinda Naay’s Haida Gwaii Museum’s former Curator Kwiiaawah Jones and current Museum Director Jisgang Nika Collison celebrated the opening of ‘Haida Now’ on March 15. The exhibit features over 450 Haida works at the Museum of Vancouver (MOV) at səńaʔqʷ Kits Point. Much of the collection has been kept in storage since as early as 1890, and hasn’t been seen or documented. Kwiaahwah curated the exhibit in collaboration with Viviane Gosselin, Co-curator and Director of Collections & Exhibitions at MOV.
To welcome those attending members of xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Musqueam, Skwxwú7mesh Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations spoke, danced and sang. Haida also danced to recognize the exhibit opening and to honour of their hosts. Words followed from Kwiiaawah, Jisgang, Skil Hiilans Allan Davidson, President of the Haida Nation kil tlaats ‘gaa Peter Lantin, former President of the Haida Nation Kilsli Kaji Sting Miles Richardson Jr, coastal relatives, representatives of MOV and local elected officials.
As visitors milled from room to room through the new exhibit, a rich display of long hidden treasures opened up before them. Series of photos by Farah Nosh introduced visitors to the current Haida generation before they pass into an exhibit absolutely crowded with Haida creations of every kind and from every era. A collection of K’aas HlGaa argillite carvings towers in a centrepiece that almost seems to overflow. Engraved bracelets, labrets and collars showed the connection between past and present. Intricate robes, baskets, and even masks show the source of today’s Haida mastery and creativity in weaving.
With the masks, statues, fishing implements, hunting tools, serving and eating utensils, ornately carved bentwood boxes, dishes, old stone mortars and pestles, it may be easy for visitors to grow overwhelmed. Those who need a break can retreat to the “Haida living-room”, a space designed to give visitors a taste of what a Haida home feels like.
Before exiting visitors will encounter a series of recent videos and photos of Haida people, including things like dance-videos from the Haida Gwaii Youth Assembly, clips from the upcoming full-length Haida-language feature film Sgaawaay K’uuna The Edge of the Knife and short documentaries about Haida carvers.
As visitors view works from centuries ago and from as recently as 2018, they will grow to understand how the current Haida generation is building on the legacy of excellence that kuuniisii ancestors have passed down.
The Museum of Vancouver will display Haida Now from March 16, 2018 to June 15, 2019.