Masks of Coastal Expressions

Tony Speers brings the Nuxalk culture to 100 Mile House

Tony Speers stood beside his Voices of the Mountain mask at the Parkside Gallery on May 27. This mask was one of 20 Speers is displaying as part of his Coastal Expressions exhibit. The masks will be on display at the gallery until June 25.

The Parkside Gallery was filled with wooden masks and the music of native drums as Tony Speers presented his Coastal Expressions works on May 27.

Speers brought more than 20 masks he has made during the past two years while teaching wood carving at Skyline Alternate School in Williams Lake.

Speers is originally from 100 Mile House, but he says his heart will always be in Bella Coola.

I went there as a small boy and I fell in love with the land and the culture.”

It was in Bella Coola years later that Speers would discover his love for wood carving. After he completed his teaching degree at the University of British Columbia in 1989, he moved to Bella Coola to teach wood working at the Acwsalcta School.

However, upon arriving, Speers discovered that the students didn’t want to make bookshelves and tables. They wanted to make drums and masks because of the Nuxalk First Nations culture in the area.

He was soon taken under the wing of local artist Alvin Mack who taught Speers the technique of carving with native tools and the history of Nuxalk culture.

Among his display of masks, Speers had an album of photos from his time teaching at the school. The school has beautiful native artwork on the walls of the building.

Several of Speers’ masks are based on traditional Nuxalk stories and legends. One of the standout pieces is the Voice of the Mountains. The mask is inspired by the voices that can Speers says, can be heard in the mountains of Bella Coola.

According to the legends, they are the voices of Nuxalk people who contracted small pocks and were told to leave their villages to go into the woods and die.

Another piece that was significant to Speers was the Salmon Guardian, which he based on the 2010 flood in Bella Coola and the affect it had on the local salmon run.

All of the masks are carved with tools Speers has made himself and were fashioned after tools used by the Nuxalk people. Using various red alder wood collected from Bella Coola with a variety of acrylic paint and animal hair, it takes about a month for Speers to create one mask.

When it comes to inspiration, it began at a very early age for Speers.

When I was in Grade 5 social studies and opened up my text book to look at Haida artwork, it captured my imagination and has stuck with me ever since.”

As for the purpose of his Coastal Expressions exhibit, Speers is most focused on introducing the people of 100 Mile to the Nuxalk culture he got to learn about while teaching.

I want to bring the Bella Coola experience to the local people who have never been there. It’s an amazing place with beautiful culture.”

The Coastal Expressions exhibit will be on display at the Parkside Art Gallery until June 25.

Just Posted

Provincial government needs to fund search and rescue: CRD

CRD board wants NCLGA resolution calling on the province to ensure secured funding is in place for SAR groups

100 Mile House and District Council considers immigration pilot program

Over 30 communities will participate in Regional Entrepreneur Immigration Pilot Program

Former 100 Mile Curling Club member to represent province

Hannah Lindner played at the club from 2008 to 2015

100 Mile Bantam House Royals lose 3-1 in final

Last year, the team lost every single game. This year they won all but one.

Lydia McLelland performs at Solid Rock Cafe

Gospel singer, Lydia McLelland, performed to a packed house during the Solid… Continue reading

Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Calgary captain has 3 points as Flames torch Canucks 3-1

Giordano leads way as Alberta side cracks 100-point plateau

1,300 cruise ship passengers rescued by helicopter amid storm off Norway’s coast

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances

B.C. university to offer first graduate program on mindfulness in Canada

University of the Fraser Valley says the mostly-online program focuses on self-care and well being

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Tofino’s housing crisis causing some to seek shelter at the local hospital

Tofino’s housing crisis is pushing the town’s ‘hidden homeless’ population into the forefront.

Sentencing judge in Broncos crash calls for carnage on highways to end

Judge Inez Cardinal sentenced Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to eight years

2 fires in Victoria caused by cigarettes prompts warning from deputy fire chief

Two separate fires caused by cigarette butts were avoidable

Most Read