The Bear Mother
‘The Bear Mother’ by Wayne Young – First Nations Northwest Coast Nisga’a Art presented by DaVic Gallery of Native Canadian Arts.
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Description by Artist: “The Bear Mother story starts off as a story of arrogance and vanity, and evolves into a story of motherly love and family values.
In a time when man and animals lived in harmony, there lived a princess. It was a time when bears could walk through a human village at their leisure – in perfect harmony. Not unlike any other time in any other story, the princess was very spoiled. The princess didn’t walk around – she paraded around. One day she was parading through the village when she slipped on bear droppings and landed on her butt. And not unlike any other royalty she was humiliated and deeply hurt. As a result of her bruised pride, she showed total disregard and lack of sensitivity by berating the bears for their natural biological functions. Of course, the bears took exception and were humiliated and chose to retaliate by abducting the princess, whisking her away to the bear village. There she was locked up and held as a prisoner to be dealt with at their leisure. Incredibly humiliated personally and physically, the princess was at a loss to deal with her predicament.
While she was imprisoned, the princess was fortunate enough to encounter a very worthwhile ally in the form of the mouse-woman. The mouse-woman, with her apparent wisdom and experience enlightened the princess as to a way she could save herself. Apparently she was in danger of being killed and eaten by the bears. The mouse-woman noticed the princess had a copper bracelet. She told the princess that the bears were simple-minded and easily fooled. She thought that if she could convince them that every time she went to the washroom she could produce copper jewelry instead of natural droppings that she would impress the bears. So instead of leaving droppings she left half of her copper bracelet. The first time it did impress the bears, so with the other half of the bracelet she repeated the process. And in impressing the bears, she also impressed the bear prince. With this the prince decided to make her his wife. And so her fate was sealed.
The princess became the bear prince’s wife. In accepting her lot in life she eventually became not only the wife, but the mother of his two children. She gave birth to two cubs. In time, she accepted her fate, not realizing her brother, the prince of the human village hadn’t given up his search for her.
Eventually her brother tracked her to the bears’ village. Aware of what had already taken place, he still sought revenge for the abduction of his sister. He wanted to take his revenge on the bear prince. So with a hunting party, he tracked down the bear prince in a deep forest and cornered him in a cave. The bear prince, being of proud lineage, asked the prince if he could die with dignity, not cornered in a cave. His wife’s brother granted him this last wish. So the bear was allowed to come out of the cave and perform his death dance before he was put to death. Following the death of the bear prince, the princess was returned to her original village with her two children. Her cubs could transform back and forth from bear to humans. Maternal instincts being what they are, the mother brought them back to the bear village where she remained with them.
Out of respect for the princess, her home village adopted the bears as their clan.”
Notes from DaVic Gallery: This Limited Edition silkscreen prints titled “The Bear Mother” by Wayne Young was published in August 1998. It was hand produced by the screen-printing process. It is the only limited edition printing of this design. The artist was involved in the printmaking, checking the stencils and signing each copy in the edition: 170 signed and numbered copies, 17 artist’s proofs, 17 Remarque’s and 1 printer’s proof. 3 Hors de Commerce copies exist and are defaced and all other trial copies have been destroyed and the printing stencils obliterated.