Carving reaches across continents
FORT RUPERT—The quiet village of Fort Rupert on northern Vancouver Island seems a world away from the bustle of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
But, through the work of local Kwakiutl artists, an enduring connection has been carved out between the two.
Renowned sculptor Stan Hunt and his family were preparing last week for a trip to the mainland for the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival and the world premier of the documentary Totem.
The hour-long piece focuses on a 42-foot totem pole created by Hunt and commissioned by the Ministry of Culture and Public Spaces of the City of Buenos Aires.
The totem replaced another that stood in the city’s Canada Plaza, carved by Hunt’s grandfather Mungo Martin and erected in 1962. When an attempt was made to renovate that pole in 2011 it was found to be too badly damaged to restore and officials sought out a descendant to craft a replacement.
Stan was hired for the job, and last week recalled embarking on the project as he worked on his latest piece.
“The (Western Forest Products) crew just blew me away. They took us out and showed us, I think it was nine trees they had picked out, still standing. We just told them, ‘That’s the one’, told them what size we wanted, and they took it down, cut it to length and delivered it that day.”
So began almost a year of work as Stan, assisted by sons Jason and Trevor, and cousins Calvin Hunt and Mervyn Child, set about bringing the design to life.
“This pole was all about our family,” explained the artist. At its base is a double-headed Sisiutl representing Stan’s grandmothers. Above is a grizzly holding a halibut to represent Stan and his family. Atop the bear is the first of two chiefs, representing his grandfather who holds a frog copper to acknowledged his adoption of Stan’s mother, a frog woman.
Next is a large killer whale, the family crest of Stan’s wife Lavina, who hails from Alert Bay. Then comes the raven, with a large pair of wings, denoting the Hunt family crest, and, finally, a second chief representing Stan’s father Henry, a noted carver and artist who worked for years with the Royal Museum in Victoria.
At the pole’s base, Stan carved his family name and attached a copper plate, his nod to the tradition of laying a piece of copper during pole-raising ceremonies to mark the status and power of the family raising the pole.
The pole was completed in March 2012 and shipped the 15,000 km to Buenos Aires where it was raised on Canada Day of that year.
For nine days during the totem’s creation, Stan was joined by the filmmakers who documented the process. Following its debut at VLAFF, the film’s producers are expected to seek distribution of the piece through North American television networks.
While Stan has had a preview of the documentary he has not yet had the opportunity to see the totem itself in situ — something he’d like to remedy. “I’d like to go down (to Argentina),” he said. “I’d like to see it standing… you never know,” he added, before hinting that he and Levina would look at the possibility of making the trip once he finishes his latest project.
That could take a while, though. Stan is currently working on a commission piece for a private collector: a 12-foot Huxwhukw mask which will form the centrepiece of a multi-mask design, a project the artist estimates will keep him busy for the next six months.
For more information on the documentary of VLAFF see http://www.vlaff.org.
Samples of the artist’s work can be found on his website at http://www.stanleychunt.com.