To appreciate the Art, it is important to understand the structures of their social system. All Haida are born either “Ravens” or “Eagles”. The determination of moiety is established by the mother’s affiliation. Within the moiety are lineages; associations to these lineages are several crests, legends and Haida names. The legends associated with the Art may not be known, as it originates in the artist mind. It is of great importance to show the owner’s status and lineage affiliation with designs. The main crests are utilized for display, personal identity and ceremonial purposes. The Art symbols are earned in one’s lifetime, inherited or acquired by adoption. The ancestors had an impressive display of Art on their longhouses, totem poles, canoes, personal objects and household items. It was not unusual to find a design tattooed on a person’s entire body. When you are depicting Northwest Coast Art, the best method is to consider the symbols that are represented as animals, humans or objects of nature. The details will tell you what the design is. They include: head, ears, eyes, nose, mouth, teeth, tongues, hands, claws, feet or fins, depending upon what the Art object is. Within the body parts, most often faces are used to fill the spaces to make up the overall design. Details that are non-essential to the main body of the design are known as fillers. Broken designs are not quite so easy to depict and may be for the more experienced eye.

Acknowledgements: Argillite by Douglas Wilson, Potlatch by Steltzer, Islands at the Edge by the Islands Protection Society, Ninstints: Haida World Heritage Site by George McDonald, Bill Reid, Beyond the Essential form by Karen Duffek, Totem Poles by Hilary Stewart, Haida: Their Art and Culture by Leslie Drew.

Categories: Haida Culture

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