"Conceptually, I want to capture these Beings as they might be, unguarded, basking in the beauty of their surroundings, basking in who they are – unguarded moments of sensuality.
That is our challenge today – to fully embrace who we are and where we’ve been to get to our destination, and our new state of transformation."
“Out of Concealment: Haida Female Supernatural Beings”
“Out of Concealment: Haida Female Supernatural Beings” is an exhibit thatfeatured by the Haida Gwaii Museum from June 2017 to December 31, 2017.
Click here to download the exhibit guide.
This dynamic project is a three-dimensional storytelling installation that encompasses photos, music, sound and dialogue. ‘Out of Concealment’ is the translation of the original name for Haida Gwaii, referring to Raven, the trickster taking the islands of Haida Gwaii out of concealment of the realm of the supernatural beings to share with humanity.
The concept of this exhibition is to convey origin and oral traditions from the Haida Nation about female supernatural beings. Passed on from generation to generation through oral tradition, these are important narratives that illustrate the Nation’s laws, values, customs, rituals and relationships with earthly and metaphysical realms.
The exhibit consists of 34 images, (2 of which will be rendered in video presentations, 1 on a silk panel and 2 in LED Light boxes), plus 10 portraits of the larger oral history montages. Three images will have motion-sensors to trigger new compositions of songs associated with three of the Supernatural Beings. One of the videos will illustrate an oral history and will include another new composition (performed with Bill Henderson and Claire Lawrence); the second video will depict a transformation and will have an archival song of Terri-Lynn's great grandmother and her contemporaries singing. The new compositions will all be included in Terri-Lynn's new album.
The sharing of oral traditions and 'Story-telling' is an art form specific to Indigenous Peoples - this exhibit integrates contemporary technology and ideas to bring ancient narratives of the supernatural into a modern context.
“Out of Concealment” aims to help people – both within the Haida Nation and the general public – to see the feminine and powerful land and seascapes of Haida Gwaii through a worldview where the land and sea are human and worthy of respect, not to be dominated and exploited.
I drew upon my experience as a Haida dancer. We use masks to portray different creatures; the Haida word for mask means literally, “to imitate”, but in the context of dance it means to “bring to life”.
In the Haida worldview, the cedar tree is known as “every woman’s sister”, providing for and sustaining our existence. This ancient sister lies at the root of Haida culture. She permeates every facet of Haida life, beginning in the cradle, continuing to the grave and, finally, ending at the memorial potlatch and raising of totem poles to commemorate and celebrate one’s life and contributions to the community.
The Haida perspective and Haida laws acknowledges the living spirit or power, of all beings, both animate and inanimate. It respects these beings for giving their life to sustain humanity. For example, each time we take bark from a cedar tree, Haida law requires that we first speak to the tree to learn how much of the cedar bark we may take. Similarly, each time we test the structural strength of cedar for the construction of canoes or totem poles, we “Look into the Heart of the Cedar”.
This perspective and these laws bring a holistic and respectful use and view of the forests – beginning at the roots, continuing up the tree to include the bark and the pitch, through to the species nesting in the gloriously dense, canopy of the old-growth forests; extending out to the streams filled with salmon and trout; and embracing the berries, medicines and 150 forest species that sustain Haida culture – and acknowledge the interrelationship between the forests with the rest of the land and the surrounding marine environment.
This worldview has guided the development of Haida laws and a millennia of sustainable management of the forests of Haida Gwaii – beginning with the nurturing of the very first trees and continuing into the present day. This worldview where the Cedar Tree is a Sister dramatically changes how we interact with forests and manage their human usage.