Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Northwestern Native Art Totem Pole to be Carved for LA

A huge example of Northwestern Native art will be displayed at the Southwest Museum of the American Indian in LA when Haida carver Jim Hart finishes a massive red cedar totem pole for the 'Totems to Turquoise' exhibit. The 435 year old cedar was felled two winters ago on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands in BC Canada). The 1,600 pound log was then prepared for shipment.

"We come from the land of big trees, big cedars like this one," Hart said. "We used to make big canoes from one log, and they're ocean-going canoes."

This new Northwestern Native art totem pole will be a bear, with a museum entryway through the bear's stomach. "It has a lot of meanings," Hart said. "It's not just a doorway. This is a bear mother and it has the tongue hanging out, so as you're going through the doorway it's actually licking you: it expresses the mother instinct. The door also represents stepping back into the womb at night when you're going back to safety, so that's your center of the world. The next morning when you get up and you want to go out, you're like reborn. There's a lot to it, you know. Plus it's defensive. You have to crouch down to go through, so if you're a bad person going in there to do damage, somebody can wait for you on the other side and conk you on the head."

For more background information on the bear's significance, see the Bear in Northwestern Native Art.

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