Haida argillite chest

unknown, but before 1920
RBCM 10622
Charles Edenshaw

Originally collected at Massett, Haida Gwaii, this argillite chest was later acquired by Charles F. Newcombe and entered the museum’s collection in 1961. It is attributed to the great Haida artist da.a.xiigang, Chief 7IDANsuu, also known as Charles Edenshaw (1839-1920). Like many of Edenshaw’s works, it is simultaneously traditional and novel. It is traditional in that it illustrates a Haida oral history: Raven discovering humankind in a cockle shell is depicted on the chest’s lid. In Haida thought, the boundaries between states of existence – natural and supernatural worlds, animal and human – are porous. Edenshaw illustrates this by depicting Raven transforming between his bird and human forms. It is novel because, like much of Edenshaw’s work, it was made for the new art and ethnographic markets, not for Haida use. In his life and art, Edenshaw demonstrated that tradition and modernity are not mutually exclusive.

This object selected by Dr Martha Black.