“Raven is a large handsome bird with lustrous black plumage and a raucous voice. For fame and renown the raven has few rivals in the bird kingdom. In some cultures, it commands esteem and respect. The First Nations people of North America admire it for its mysticism, spiritual symbolism, intelligence and gregarious nature. Many legends, myths and fables have been woven around it. New Zealand does not have ravens but a prehistoric species did exist. Fossilized evidence suggests the bird closely resembled the North American version.”
The portraits of raven in this exhibition represent the powerful roles that this bird plays in Northwest Coast history. Birds by nature are migratory and raven moves constantly throughout the Northwest Coast altering and changing the world but also leaving unique gifts that create dramatic differences to the environment, and between people of different nations. Raven is a prominent clan crest and mask interpretations of raven are danced in many of the tribal ceremonies on the Northwest Coast. Raven is one of the three large cannibal bird headdresses, with Crooked Beak of Heaven and Hokw Hokw, performed in the Hamatsa secret society rituals of the Kwakwaka’wakw, Heiltsuk and Nuxalk nations. The Raven Rattle, also known as a Chief’s Rattle, is usually handled by a chief or high-ranking figure during ceremonies. The Raven Rattle is shaped like a bird in flight and is double-sided with intricate detailed carving, often referencing shamanic images linking the human and spirit worlds.
Raven has existed on the Northwest Coast since the beginning of time and before the great flood that covered the world. Raven is known for his insatiable curiosity that forces him to crisscross the Northwest Coast in search of new wonders and was always meddling in the affairs of humans and animals. For this reason, raven had worn out his welcome in many places and depended on his ability to transform so that he could revisit past destinations without being recognized. Raven has crossed through the veil to the spirit world and therefore understands both the supernatural and natural worlds. Raven has been known to steal possessions including many great treasures that we now take for granted, such as the sun and the salmon, and accidentally or intentionally give them away to the world.
“This is the work of art that gave rise to the title of this exhibition. My effort to portray Raven at peace, transformed from his instinctively active and raucous self, fundamentally conveys the exhibition’s spirit and the stories told. Raven is in a distant time and place. Dream Raven, dream.”
“Raven Dreaming” is the exhibition title artwork and portrays Raven in a dream state, contemplating the evolution of the world and its many transformations including the arrival of many species of birds to the Northwest Coast.
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