Curated by rising sculptor Jonas Jones, the show is part of his efforts to raise awareness of his culture and inspire future generations
In the seaside community of Deep Cove, there is no indication that you are on the traditional territory of the Tsleil-Waututh people.
TsuKwalton (Jonas Jones) is working to change that.
He is the curator of the Children of Takaya exhibition, which opened on Saturday August 13 at the Seymour Art Gallery. The exhibition features works by seven emerging artists from Tsleil-Waututh, including Jordan Gallie, Robert George, Ocean Hyland, Syvawn Paul and Jones himself.
Also on display are pieces of Olivia George, whose art was featured on Mt. Seymour season passes and Canada Rugby Sevens tournament medals in 2018.
With several artist residencies over the past year, including one with the Vancouver Mural Festival, 27-year-old Jonas has been thinking about how to use the space to generate more exposure for his culture.
“If you come to Deep Cove, there is no representation of my people. There is no knowledge of what was here before,” he said. “And I was thinking, ‘What is the contemporary way that I can bring recognition to my people?'”
“So I said, ‘What if I bring in other young people from my nation and then put on a show? “”
Along with creating more recognition, Jones said he wanted to make it a pivotal moment in teaching other ethnicities when they walk into the room.
“Because art is more than art to most Indigenous people,” he explained. “In residential schools and the effects of what happened during colonization, everything was stripped from us.
We were able to maintain our culture through art, sculpture, painting, canoe making,” he continued. “Our stories go into these pieces…and that’s how my ancestors must have carried on our knowledge.”
For the past two years, Jones has been apprenticed to master carver Ses Siyam (Ray Natraoro), of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), a prolific carver of masks, totems and canoes. While Natraoro learned first-hand from artists like Simon Dick and Rick Harry, Jones learned all about Natraoro by sculpting alongside him in person.
If Natraoro did a portrait, Jones would do a portrait. If Jones wanted to learn how to carve a moon, Natraoro would carve a moon.
“It’s a process [where] he gave me a part of himself, so that I could excel faster,” Jones said. “And that’s what I will do for my apprentices.”
He describes the experience of learning the ins and outs of curating an art exhibit as a step on his journey to training future generations of Indigenous artists.
“You see those little guys, those little cousins coming here? They look at all this stuff and they go, “Wow, this is amazing, look at all this artwork…maybe I could do that too”, which they obviously could do.
Jones said he was doing none of this for himself. Instead, he looks at the bigger picture, to find ways to help young people and other artists in his area grow.
At the same time, the momentum of his own career could lead to the kind of cultural recognition that is lacking today.
Through his participation in the Vancouver Mural Festival, he spoke at a panel sponsored by Herschel. Now the backpack company wants to work with him on a project, Jones said. And thanks to his sculpture, there are requests for proposals to make welcome poles for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
When people see these beautiful carvings, he said people will be impressed by them.
“So they’re going to want one at Deep Cove.”
The Children of Takaya exhibition opened on Saturday with a reception and performance by the Children of Takaya Dance Group at Panorama Park. There will be a closing reception at the end of the show on September 10th. Visitors are warned of heavy traffic, especially on weekends. For more information on parking, visit the Seymour Gallery website.