This is Our Gift


September 11, 2014

Laxgalts’ap, BC — The Nisga’a Museum is pleased to announce that its premier temporary exhibition for 2015 is FINDING A VOICE: THE ART OF NORMAN TAIT. Opening to the public on May 15, 2015, this much-anticipated and long-awaited exhibition by one of the Nisga’a Nation’s premiere artists is sure to captivate audiences and reveal the innovative approaches that Tait has utilized throughout his career to express his own artistic voice.

Norman Tait was born in 1941 in the Nisga’a Nation community of Gingolx in northwestern British Columbia. Tait, from an early age, discovered and learned protocols related to his family, the Nation’s oral histories and cultural ceremonies. He has carved 39 totem poles to date, including ones for the Nisga’a Nation, the David Suzuki Foundation in Japan, the Field Museum in Chicago, and the British Royal Family in London’s Bushy Park; he has carved and raised five totem poles throughout the Metro Vancouver region including the University of British Columbia, Stanley Park, Capilano Mall and the Native Education Centre. Tait’s work can be found in numerous private collections around the world and in public collections at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology, Museum of Vancouver, Royal British Columbia Museum and the Canadian Museum of History. In 1991, Lucinda Turner (b.1958) began an apprenticeship with Tait that evolved into an artistic collaborative partnership.

FINDING A VOICE is the second public museum exhibition in history to focus on Norman Tait. The first exhibition was held in November, 1977 at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology and included work between the years 1970 and 1977. The Nisga’a Museum project will include some work created during that period however work created after 1980 will be the focus. FINDING A VOICE: THE ART OF NORMAN TAIT will include carvings (masks, bowls, spoons, walking sticks, rattles and model poles), jewelry (earrings, bracelets, and pendants), textiles and maquettes (including photographs) for major public art commissions. “Developing a comprehensive exhibition that showcases the talents and breadth of Tait’s career is our primary objective,” notes Nisga’a Museum director and exhibition curator Darrin Martens. “Allowing viewers an opportunity to explore and understand concepts such as influence (historical and contemporary), context (place), apprenticeship (learning principles), collaboration (ideas v.s. physical labour) and ownership (developing a personal style) related to Tait and his work is essential to unpacking this gifted artist and the work he has created.”

The show will also include a substantial monograph, a variety of public and school engagement programs as well as a touring component. The accompanying catalogue will include essays by long-time Tait friend, photographer and author Vickie Jensen (Where the People Gather: Carving a Totem Pole – a book about Tait and his carving), Darrin Martens (on the subject of finding one’s own artistic voice within the collaborative sphere) and Karen Duffek (on the subject of Tait’s artistic influence within the Pacific North-west).

FINDING A VOICE: THE ART OF NORMAN TAIT is made possible through partnerships with: UBC’s Museum of Anthropology, the Museum of Vancouver, West Vancouver Museum, Spirit Wrestler Gallery, Inuit Art Gallery, numerous private collections, Norman Tait, Lucinda Turner, and funding agencies the British Columbia Arts Council and the Nisga’a Lisims Government.

This is our gift to each other, our fellow Canadians and the world.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many Nisga’a treasures left the Nass Valley. During the struggle for our treaty, Nisga’a elders and leaders fought to ensure this scattered legacy would find its way back home. Now, housed in a permanent place of honour, this treasury of Nisga’a culture ranks as one of the preeminent collections of Northwest Coast aboriginal art.

Anhooya’ahl Ga’angigatgum’ (the Ancestors’ Collection) is now open. This gathering of priceless artifacts — on display together for the first time — contains over 300 Nisga’a cultural treasures. You will be moved by the power and spirit encountered here.

We Nisga’a are leaders. Our art and culture tie us to this place. We have stories of wonder, tragedy, and triumph to tell.

Here, we will share them with the world.