Gud ad hlgang.gulxa (Working Together )

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The naaw masks were carved by artist Yahl Aadaa (Cori Savard).
“They are carved in alder” says Savard. What makes these masks cool is the fact that “the masks are two halves of one piece of the same tree.”

Rhonda Lee McIsaac —

Naaw are super cool; they have three hearts and eight arms! Two hearts pump blood through gills and the third pumps it through the rest of the body and there are about 300 different types of naaw in the world. They may seem creepy to some with their eight legs and curious looking heads but they play a great game of hide and seek, adapting to their surroundings by changing colour and texture.

This year, teacher Dan Burton and his Grade 5-6 class have been conducting research into these amazing cephalopods in preparation for an event celebrating the creation of two new naaw dance masks made specially for the school by artist Yahl Aadaa Cori Savard. A male and female naaw mask took approximately a month each to complete, stated Yahl Aadaa, “That includes the time to let the alder rest and dry before painting”. The naaw masks will be brought to life at Sk’aadgaa Naay on Wednesday June 14 at 1:15 pm.

Students Levi Burton and Teemo Laughlin will dance the two masks to life and they have also been busy making their own dance ‘costumes’.

“They are light enough, and durable enough because of the properties of alder, for children to dance” says Yahl Aadaa.

The two boys have been camping as part of a school activity and will be fresh off the land and water when they come back to school and prepare for the debut of the two dance masks, said Jaad Tl’aaw Paula Varnell. “I gave them the lyrics before they left,” she said, smiling as she imagines the two singing and practicing while camping up coast.

“I was inspired by the red naaw of the school crest. It was also requested that the masks be naaw. The idea to create the beaks and a humanoid face came from the discussion around having one be male and female to represent the children at the school. One of the masks has a slightly more projected lip to represent a jaadaa wearing a labret,” says Yahl Aadaa.

Working with the class on choreography and singing, is resource worker Jaad Tl’aaw. The class will be singing the school anthem composed by Jisgang Nika Collison.

Yahl Aadaa’s connection to the masks is more than that of being the artist who created these unique and beautiful masks.

“My personal connection to the masks comes from the coincidence that naaw is one of the crests of the Yahgu’laanaas Raven clan from Daadens, to which I was born into. It is also one of my daughter’s crests. [She] will eventually attend Sk’aadga Naay and possibly dance one of the masks someday,” she states.

The naaw crest came to the school in 2009 during a trip to Jungle Beach which resulted in a vision for former principal Vonnie Hutchingson, who likened the naaw to all children who have and will attend Sk’aadgaa Naay, as being the most intelligent of all the land creatures of Haida Gwaii.

“It isn’t difficult to carve out the holes under the nose/beak when the alder is fresh. The wood is quite soft and waxy in texture. The trick is not to chip the nose off. It is more about concentration and mindfulness, and knowing what your tools are doing,” Yahl Aadaa said about working on the masks.



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