Surfer's Paradise

Developed and curated by Alcheringa Gallery, and the first exhibition ever of its kind, Surfer’s Paradise: Northwest Coast Surfboards brings together over 20 Indigenous Northwest Coast artists for their interventions on, and interpretations of, the surfboard. All crafted out of western red cedar from Vancouver Island - exclusively for Alcheringa for this exhibition - these boards allow the artist to explore both the wooden canvas and their own relationship to the contemporary culture of surfing, as well their connection to the ocean of their own First Nation territories of Canada’s West coast. These art surfboards will be on exhibition both at Alcheringa Gallery in downtown Victoria and at Brentwood Bay Resort.

 

In 2016, Anishinaabe artist and curator Jaimie Isaac opened the exhibition Boarder X at the Winnipeg Art Gallery featuring indigenous artists who surf, skate and snowboard. "I think there is a direct relationship to the land," explains Isaac, "whether it's skateboarding and responding to the environment of the urban terrain or snowboarding responding to those immovable mountains."

 

Surfer’s Paradise: Northwest Coast Surfboards is a diverse cross-cultural exploration - showcasing an important intersection between the relationship to the land and water of our First Peoples for Millennia, and the contemporary colonization of surfing in popular culture. This exhibition will return a ‘new contemporary indigenous view’ from the current generation of artists and their personal relationship of being on the ocean. This view parallels the evolution in their contemporary modalities of Northwest Coast art. In shedding a light on the colonization of contemporary surfing culture – full of competition, bravado, and corporate branding – this exhibition hopes to remind us of the cultural, meditative, and practical significance of the indigenous invention of ‘riding and travelling the waves’.

 

Indigenous people around the world have been travelling the water in dugout canoes since time immemorial. Surfing proper was invented by Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures as far back as 1500. The sport spread rapidly in the late 1800s as travel and access to Hawaiian culture became easier. The popularity caught on and Australian settlers quickly found the best locations. But surfing in Tofino/BC (Canada’s surfing mecca), however, wasn’t really introduced until the 1960s when logging roads started to make travel more accessible. After some advancement in wetsuits in the 1990s, making the cold water more tolerable, surfing culture in the area really took off.

 

Nuu-Chah-Nulth people of the West Coast of Vancouver Island have since partnered with many Tofino/Ucluelet based organizations that embrace and promote a new surfing culture (one which respects and understands traditional territory), which dominates the area. Long beach and Jordan River are also hot spots on Vancouver Island (nearer to Greater Victoria), and stand up paddle boarding (an extension of surfing) has become an immensely popular and accessible way to enjoy the water here and worldwide.

 

The boards here are the medium in which we can come as close to water as possible, and the artwork is the individual expression of that relationship. More directly, water, clean water, is as important than ever before. Surfing, or being on the water, brings us closer to understanding both the harmony of our intricate ecosystem, as well as the negative effects we have had on our oceans. Through our recent global negligence, we are experiencing never before seen environmental threats like micro-plastics and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This exhibition, and these artists, may act as a bridge to seeing the ocean from a decolonized indigenous perspective, one that has had as its priority in environmental conservation and sustainability as protectors of water, land and sky for time immemorial.


Full list of artists includes:

Corey Bulpitt

Margaret Briere

Andrew Dexel

Francis Dick

KC Hall

Dean Heron

Bear Horne

Jason Hunt

Trevor Hunt

Trevor Husband

Maynard Johnny

Chris Lines

NUSMATA (Jarrod Saunders)

Chris Paul

Roger Smith

Ernest Swanson

Dylan Thomas

WUUHLU (Bracken Corlett)


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