Body Language: Reawakening Cultural Tattooing of the Northwest

Body Language is the first exhibition to fully explore the rich history and artistry of Indigenous tattooing, piercing and personal adornment on the Northwest Coast. Since ancient times, both men and women on the coast marked their clan crests and symbols of personal identity onto their skin. Tattoos were a celebration and recognition of special life events, potlatches and social rank. Lip, nose and ear piercing was also linked to rank and status. After 1885, when the practices of tattooing and potlatches were banned, the display of personal crest designs was transferred to clothing and jewelry.

The contemporary artists included in the exhibition are at the forefront of the revival of Indigenous tattooing in BC. They are reclaiming traditional techniques and traditional rights to be tattooed, and building awareness of the significance and protocols around the tattooing traditions. Today, tattoos tell personal stories, create identity and a feeling of belonging. They can be intended to decorate, heal and protect, and are so much more than a trend. Each artist will examine the history, symbolism, oral traditions, songs and artistry of indigenous tattooing within their region.

Guest Curator – Dion Kaszas (Nlaka’pamux)

Artists: Nakkita Trimble (Nisga’a); Nahaan (Tlingit); Corey Bulpitt (Haida); Dean Hunt (Heiltsuk)

June 8, 2018 - March 17, 2019