Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Dave Matilpi – FROM THE HEART - Artist of the Month of August

A face that easily breaks into a smile, a gray braid down his back, a feather in his hat, Dave Matilpi is an Elder, a Pow Wow dancer, a teacher, an artist, and a gifted communicator.

Dave Matilpi was born in Alert Bay, British Columbia, which is the traditional territory of the Kwakiutl First Nation. 

Papa Dave, as he is known to many students in the Peace who have been influenced by his insight, humour and wisdom, teaches using his traditional and personal stories. These stories are very often the inspiration behind his art work.  As a self-taught artist, he works in wood, antler, ink, paint and murals. One need only visit the Sagitawa Friendship Centre to view a full wall mural created by Dave or see him dancing in his Pow Wow regalia, created in the traditional style with his West Coast designs to appreciate his artistic abilities.

Dave’s West Coast images are striking and bold in colour, expressing, in some, the well-known characteristics of the Wild Woman or the Summer Sisters (also known as, mosquitoes). These works can all be viewed at the Sagitawa Friendship Centre gift shop. I remember when he first presented at the Museum as the Artist of the Month a couple of years ago, he explained how he was beginning to see a blend of West Coast and northern Cree images in his work – the influence of years of living in northern Alberta.

Stolen Family Teachings
Most recently his work reflects his life’s journey, specifically the impact of attending residential school in Alert Bay. His formative years were spent in Alert Bay Residential School. One can see in the images painted on canvas the inspiration and strength he derives from his traditions to move forward and bring awareness and greater understanding to those who see and hear his stories about this personal journey. These are the works currently on display at the Museum. In them, you will see traditional images freely moving on the canvass within the confining shapes and symbols of his residential school experience. The two dichotomies seem to express the ever present memories with the strength and wisdom of the ancient Elders.

Ancestor's Love


Dave Matilpi’s art, like the art of Carey Newman’s Witness Blanket, currently on exhibit, help break the silence about Canada’s residential school system and contribute to the national conversation and healing our country is experiencing.  

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