Keynote speaker: Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is an award-winning visual contemporary artist, author and professional speaker. His work has been seen in public spaces, museums, galleries and private collections across the globe. Institutional collections include the British Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum and Vancouver Art Gallery. His large sculptural works are part of the public art collection of the Vancouver International Airport, City of Vancouver, City of Kamloops and University of British Columbia. Yahgulanaas’s publications include national bestsellers Flight of the Hummingbird and RED, a Haida Manga. When not writing or producing art, Yahgulanaas pulls from his 20 years of political experience in the Council of the Haida Nation and travels the world speaking to businesses, institutions and communities about social justice, community building, communication and change management. His most recent talks include the American Museum of Natural History and TEDxVancouver 2015.
Yahgulanaas became a full-time artist after many decades working in the Haida Nation’s successful campaign to protect its biocultural diversity; however, he began to play as an artist much earlier. As the descendant of iconic artists Isabella Edenshaw, Charles Edenshaw and Delores Churchill, his early training was under exceptional creators and master carvers of talented lineage. It wasn’t until the late 1990s after an exposure to Chinese brush techniques, under the tutelage of Cantonese master Cai Ben Kwon, that he consciously began to merge Haida and Asian artistic influences into his self-taught practice, and innovated the art form called “Haida Manga.”
Haida Manga blends North Pacific Indigenous iconographies and framelines with the graphic dynamism of Asian manga. It is committed to hybridity as a positive force that opens a third space for critical engagement and is weaved through his art, books and speeches. Haida Manga offers an empowering and playful way of viewing and engaging with social issues as it seeks participation, dialogue, reflection and action.
Yahgulanaas’s visual practice encompasses a variety of different art forms including large-scale public art projects, mixed media sculptures and canvases, re-purposed automobile parts, acrylics, watercolours, ink drawings, ceramics and illustrated publications. Exploring themes of identity, environmentalism and the human condition he uses art and speaking opportunities to communicate a world view that while particular to Haida Gwaii – his ancestral North Pacific archipelago – is also relevant to a contemporary and internationally-engaged audience.
Influenced by both the tradition of Haida iconography and contemporary Asian visual culture, Yahgulanaas has created a practice that is celebrated for its vitality, relevancy and originality.