This print illustrates some of the images that might flow through a man’s mind, the last few days before he joined a whale hunt off the West Coast. During those last few days before he put to sea, his mind would be on very little else but the hunt.A canoe crewman, in his sleep, might dream of any or all of the characters or figures shown. They are all linked in some way with whaling and the sea; and some that are more closely related are shown overlapping.At the top of the print are four sealskin floats. The harpoon heads used during the whale hunt had lines attached to them. After the harpoon heads were sunk deep into the whale blubber, a certain amount of line was played out; then the sealskin floats were attached to the lines. They were used to slow the whale down if he swam seaward; and after the kill, they helped keep the beast afloat.On the left side of the panel, connected by a twisted cedar bark rope to the sealskin floats, is the whaler’s harpoon. It is made up of a harpoon head, the lines running from the head; and the shaft. The harpoon heads used to be manufactured from the shell of a giant mussel and two elkhorn barbs bound together. The leader line attached to the head was braided out of sinews. The shaft was constructed of three or four sections of yew wood bound together with cherry bark. Below the harpoon head is the familiar silhouette of a West Coast type canoe, with its bow facing to the right.Immediately below the floats, on the right, there is Moon calling the tides to rise and set. The sea is symbolized by the series of broken blue lines, above the figure with her arm extended. Below the moon, on the right side of the print, is the whaler’s paddle; it was of key importance. It was carved from a single piece of yew wood with the crosspiece added and the centre grip bound with cherry bark.The four figures filling the inner panels represent the great saddle of a fin whale; the tail of a sounding whale; lightning flashing from a dark cloud; and an active rain cloud.
The centre of the design is occupied by a representation of the North Star which the whalers of old did much navigating by.
A carver, graphic artist, and painter residing on the Ahaswinis Reserve where he was born, Ron Hamilton has made a vital contribution to the preservation and the continuation of threatened Nuu-Chah-Nulth art and design. The nephew of George Clutesi, Hamilton apprenticed with renowned carver Henry Hunt. A fisherman by trade, Hamilton works in Campbell River slate, wood, silver, gold, and ivory, employing the sea serpent as a characteristic motif.
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