Museum of Vancouver’s latest exhibit shows Haida history and artistry
By Greg Waldock, Staff Writer
The Museum of Vancouver has opened their newest temporary exhibit, a meticulously assembled display of artwork from across Haida history. The exhibit, Haida Now, aims to showcase the past, present, and future of Haida people both on Haida Gwaii and in Vancouver. It stands fittingly across from the permanent City Before the City exhibit, which works to connect Musqueam history with the history of Vancouver itself.
Haida Now is presented in a wide, low room that’s dimly lit with calming reds and dark greys, a stark contrast from the bright and colourful Vanier Park where the Museum of Vancouver resides. The effect is a quiet and distinguished environment that compliments the artwork. Each wall has a quote in English, French, and Xaayda Kil/Xaad Kil, the Haida language. A large map at the front shows the names of former villages in what is now Greater Vancouver. The walls are also lined with display cases organized into themes—traditional family crests in one case, modern Haida paintings in another. Below each case is a video display featuring elders, artists, academics, and other Haida people. Douglas College’s own Dr. Bill Angelbeck narrates a portion on warfare between the Haida and the Salish.
Everything from incredibly fine argillite carvings to modern Haida music is displayed proudly and with an enormous amount of careful attention. A guest curator for Haida Now was Kwiaahwah Jones, who is praised on a large joint thank-you letter on the entrance to the exhibit. She acted as a “cultural translator” for the Museum of Vancouver, working with the Haida Gwaii Museum and Haida individuals to put together a spectacular, honest, and passionate display of a vibrant and influential Haida culture. The exhibit manages the difficult task of depicting ancient Haida history alongside modern artwork and showing how they relate and differ.
Internationally-renowned artist Bill Reid has a place of honour, with a section of the back wall devoted to his artwork, beliefs, and personal history. The wall boldly (and accurately) declares him to be one of the most important modern Canadian artists. There are also displays for major figures such as Charles Edenshaw, Robert Davidson, and other modern-day artists working in Vancouver and on Haida Gwaii.
Haida Now will be open to the public at the Museum of Vancouver until June 15, 2019.