‘Welcoming’ by Mark Preston – First Nations Northwest Coast Tlingit Art presented by DaVic Gallery of Native Canadian Arts.
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Description by Artist: ‘Welcoming‘ – “The canoe has long been the symbol of freedom for the Tlingit people, as well as for many other cultures of the world. Before the first settlers there were a great number of sea vessels travelling along the coast. Trade was the way of the coastal people; they shipped goods that they had gathered from their regions. As well as being a means of travel the canoe was also used by war parties, and they would have built specifically for this purpose. Several times larger than the common canoe, these vessels would have held as many as 50 men. However, in more peaceful times these canoes would have brought families together for ceremonial purposes in certain seasons of the year.
When a canoe from one village would have approached another territory it was customary to ask permission to come ashore. The chief or the person in charge would raise his paddle in one hand and request to land and dock. When it was granted there would be gifts given out to the people on shore. Families would be reunited through feasts and gift-giving. The canoe was a very integral part of daily living for the west coast Tlingit people, in that it was their best mode of travel as well as a means of hunting the whale and sea lions. Harvesting the ocean bottom, using the canoe, for shellfish and sea urchins was another aspect of daily living and food gathering.
In this print you see small vessel with its occupants asking permission to come ashore. Something that would have been a very normal act of mutual respect of clans and territorial rights. Today this is still practiced in certain times of ceremony amongst many of the tribes of today. If we as a people take the time to see beyond our own understanding, we will begin to see that just beneath the surface there is a reason to many of the things we just do not know. What is on the surface of many things in life is changed with ideas and methods of dealing with what life brings to us.
There is a story of an old man in one village that has had a vision. In it he describes the coming of raven, as a giant figure carrying a creature on his back. So, when the first European sailed across the oceans to anchor near the village, the people were frightened, but ready to greet raven. They had a hard time deciding who should go to welcome the raven and all the strange creatures that were crawling on the raven’s back. And so it is said that the blind man went to greet raven. (Tenna tsa teh).”
to the place of my first breath
to that forgotten place
now I am back
from my long journey
with arms outstretched
posing for your embrace
the warmth of my family
and the familiar
Where have I been that
you should have forgotten
my names sake
now here I stand to gently remind
you that I will not leave and go away
this is my homeland as far as the eye
was it not my ancestors that welcomed
you and embraced family upon family
now that you are here let us embrace the truth
and see our strengths
bring us all safely into the next life
you are welcome.
(Tenna tsa teh)
Notes from DaVic Gallery: Signed Limited Edition prints # 24, 25, 43,84, 123 of 200 available
This Limited Edition silkscreen prints titled “Welcoming” by Mark Preston was published in July 2007. 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: 200 signed and numbered copies, 20 artist’s proofs, 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.