Andy Everson discusses his design Transcendence:
Sometimes, I look at our culture and realize how insular we can be. For too many years, the Kwakwaka’wakw people have had to defend their culture from outsiders in an effort to preserve it amidst the onslaught of Euro-Canadian influence. Although often regarded as flamboyant, our material culture has typically been made to be displayed within the setting of the traditional potlatch that is open only to our people and select guests. In recent times, though, we have had the opportunity to share our culture with the outside world. Carving totem poles for clients and selling masks to tourists–heck, even the creation of prints has been a way that we are able to transcend the boundaries and limitations of our culture.
For the BC-Canada Pavilion at the Beijing 2008 Olympic games, I was asked to create a design for the heart of the display. The idea was to create a “Spirit Tree” evocative of the hollow tree at Stanley park. As it turns out, we were able to select a 225 year-old red cedar that fell during the massive windstorm of 2006 at the park. In the centre of the tree was to be a design that depicts one of the symbols of British Columbia: the Kermode, or “Spirit Bear.”
One of the stories explaining the origins of this unique bear come from the Tsimshian people who recount how Raven changed every tenth black bear white in order to remind all that the earth was once covered in ice. I respect the oral traditions of the Tsimshian people, who like the Kwakwaka’wakw, have maintained and practiced their culture, including this legend, throughout the years. I find it amazing that their story is able to transcend being illustrated by a Kwakwaka’wakw artist, displayed as a legacy of British Columbia and Canada and be interpreted by a world-wide audience of visitors to the pavilion in Beijing.