Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

Tribute to Billy Gauthier • Ahi Kā - Keep the Fires Burning

by


Wisdom of ages, seeds of life
Listen tis faint, whispering lands
Rivers exploited, resources violated
Hearts guarded…angered
Bestow celestial spirit, strengthen ancestral resolve
Stand here…now, weapon in hand
My spirit resolve
My heart the land
My weapon resilience
No more…

Ever had to fight the fight?
Lay bare your own well being?
Commit completely to your own convictions?

Ahi Kā refers to those who keep the home fires burning. Indeed these very people hold true to numerous old traditions, viewed by many to be treasures themselves.

The courageous endeavours of Inuit artist Billy Gauthier who protested against a foray that would completely change his people’s existence. In particular the annual salmon runs which his people rely on as a staple food source, ultimately inspired this piece.

Inspired by his plight I asked myself; “how could one support such a struggle and offer solidarity?”

My response was with the only tools at my disposal…that of my own carving chisels.

The symbols and colours are interpreted from references within Maori visual arts. They refer to the retention and imparting of knowledge, kinship, hospitality and elements from the land and ocean, notably the salmon tail central to this arrangement. This piece provides a visual voice celebrating the human condition embracing values of conservation.

To you Billy…I celebrate with you…’No more’.

—Roi Toia

Roi Toia

Roi Toia

Māori

Ngā Puhi

(1966- )

Roi was born and raised in Southland province in the South Island of New Zealand, although his whakapapa (genealogy) is the Te Mahurehure hapu (sub-tribe) from the Hokianga in Northland on the North Island. In 1983, he received a three-year apprenticeship to the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua, where he learned to carve with the adze and chisel and graduated with honours. He has carved on four whare whakairo (carved houses), which fuelled his passion for perfecting the technical aspects of his art and led him to learn about the ideology and spiritual aspects of carving.