Kwantlen artist Brandon Gabriel with the canoe and one of the paddles he decorated, at Tuesday's opening of contemporary Kwantlen First Nations arts exhibit at the Centennial Museum in Fort Langley.

Kwantlen artist Brandon Gabriel with the canoe and one of the paddles he decorated, at Tuesday's opening of contemporary Kwantlen First Nations arts exhibit at the Centennial Museum in Fort Langley.

Kwantlen First Nations art in spotlight

Kwantlen First Nation artists were in the spotlight when the Langley Centennial Museum opened its newest exhibit

The talents of Kwantlen First Nation artists were in the spotlight when the Langley Centennial Museum opened its newest exhibit, “Here and Now: Contemporary Kwantlen First Nations Art” on May 15.

Featuring the work of Brandon Gabriel and Phyllis Atkins, the exhibit highlights the connection between Kwantlen First Nation’s past and present.

Works in the exhibit explore the diverse methods and inspirations of both artists, and many pieces have particular significance for the entire Kwantlen First Nation.

One of the most substantial pieces is a 25-foot canoe. Over the years, the canoe has travelled down many exciting and challenging waterways. It has recently undergone refurbishments, including a new frame, seating, and gunnel made entirely from Stanley Park cedar that fell during the great winter storm of 2006.

The canoe was painted by Gabriel and was given a proper name at the exhibit’s opening reception: “hiyakw e te stahluxw” which is hun’cem’enum (Salish language) for “Chief of the River.”

Atkins’ oil paintings also depict the community of the Kwantlen. Many of her paintings express the Kwantlen’s journey of life and the sacredness of precious resources.

Her “Salmon” painting represents the importance of the salmon industry to Kwantlen peoples. This work also is inspired by her husband’s carvings, which are on display at the corner of River Road and Mavis Street in Fort Langley.

The full house at the opening enjoyed a salmon dinner, a blanketing ceremony, and a traditional canoe blessing with drums and songs, which was the first of its kind for the Kwantlen First Nation in 100 years.

The exhibit continues until August 29.