Curated by Professor Charlotte Townsend-Gault of the University of British Columbia, Backstory: Nuuchaanulth Ceremonial Curtains and the Work of Ḳi-ḳe-in brings together for the first time thliitsapilthim or ceremonial curtains by Nuuchaanulth painter Ḳi-ḳe-in (Ron Hamilton) and historical curtains from museum and private collections in Canada and the United States.
Painted on cotton, these thliitsapilthim are amongst the largest (up to 3 metres high by 18 metres long) portable two-dimensional paintings in the world. Historical ancestral exploits and episodes from family histories, conflicts, captures and alliances are seen in these striking narrative works. The Nuuchaanulth were the first people Europeans encountered when Captain James Cook landed at Yuquot in 1778 in what is now British Columbia. Though much of the art of the Northwest Coast has come to be associated with poles and carvings of the Haida and Kwakwaka’wakw, the Nuuchaanulth have made and used ceremonial curtains for thousands of years on the west coast of what is now called Vancouver Island.
Each thliitsapilthim has been painted following the instructions from a family needing it to tell the “backstory,” its history and spiritual pedigree, that will enhance and validate the ceremony of naming, celebrating a marriage, mourning or reconciling. Curtains were originally painted using locally derived pigments, including charcoal, ochre and other minerals, on cedar planks or panels. The prohibitions on First Nations ceremonies that derived from the 1885 Indian Act meant that these events were driven underground, hidden from view. It was during this period that some of the fine older examples in this exhibition found their way into public and private collections around the world. But the Nuuchaanulth never stopped creating and displaying the stories that formed the backdrop to the most important events of their lives, although they were now using sail cloth or cotton so that they could be folded up and hidden from the Indian Agents, if necessary.
Accompanied by photographs, documents and interviews, Backstory: Nuuchaanulth Ceremonial Curtains and the Work of Ḳi-ḳe-in promotes a deeper understanding of Nuuchaanulth art and culture and is a celebration of these remarkable curtains and the people who make and use them.
Thliitsapilthim in this exhibition are also presented on the campus of the University of British Columbia at the Walter C. Koerner Library at 1958 Main Mall (Monday-Friday 8 am-11 pm, Saturday-Sunday 10 am-11 pm) and the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at 9265 Crescent Road (Monday-Friday 12-5 pm). We thank Walter C. Koerner Library and the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts for participating in this project.
Backstory: Nuuchaanulth Ceremonial Curtains and the Work of Ḳi-ḳe-in is generously sponsored by the Audain Foundation and presented with the 2010 Vancouver Cultural Olympiad with support from the British Columbia Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts and the UBC Museum of Anthropology.
Backstory: Nuuchaanulth Ceremonial Curtains and the Work of Ḳi-ḳe-in. Exhibition catalogue.
32 pages, colour and b/w images. Soft cover. Introduction by Charlotte Townsend-Gault.
$2.00 — To order contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. 604.822.2759, fax. 604.822.6689.
Every undergraduate student at UBC is invited to participate in an essay contest considering the relationship of the aesthetic and the political. The exhibition Backstory poses the question, you provide some answers. There will be a $1,000 cash prize for the best essay. Essays might choose to address some of the following questions: Is it possible to perceive art outside of its specific political context? Can works of art be interpreted persuasively as political even when an exhibition doesn’t make this context explicit? A broad spectrum of thinkers – theorists, artists, writers, scientists, and more – are drawn to examining the relation of art to politics. These two domains have been conceptualized in conflicting ways – as mutually autonomous or as inherently linked. How does Backstory: Nuuchaanulth Ceremonial Curtains and the Work of Ḳi-ḳe-in (at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery until 28 March 2010) propose a strategy for apprehending the political aspects of art? How do we understand this show in light of the fact that Ḳi-ḳe-in (Ron Hamilton), the painter, does not refer to himself as an artist? Are we required to come to an exhibition well versed in the social, political, cultural context of the work? And what if we don’t?[more]
Join us at the Belkin Art Gallery for a talk by Naasḳuu-isaḳs, Shaunee Casavant, a Chief Councillor of the Hupacasath First Nation, about the many roles of her thliitsapilthim in domestic and ceremonial life. This Talk has been planned to coincide with the exhibition, Backstory: Nuuchaanulth Ceremonial Curtains and the Work of ̣Ḳi-̣ḳe-in at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery and the Inaugural Symposium of the UBC Global Encounters initiative, taking place March 4-6, 2010 on the UBC campus. For more information on the symposium and the initiative, please go to the Global Encounters – Itineraries of Exchange Symposium.[more]
Exhibition catalogue from the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery (17 January–28 March 2010). Introduction by Charlotte Townsend-Gault.[more]
A symposium on January 15-16, 2010 to mark the opening of the exhibition, Backstory: Nuuchaanulth Ceremonial Curtains and the Work of ̣Ḳi-̣ḳe-in at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery[more]