Renowned B.C. Indigenous artist Beau Dick has died

Beau Dick regalia

Kwakwaka’wakw artist Beau Dick in traditional regalia.

‘Namgis artist was known for his mask carvings and as an advocate for Aboriginal rights

By Megan Thomas, CBC News, March 28, 2017

World-renowned B.C. Indigenous artist Beau Dick has died.

Dick was a master carver and hereditary chief from the ‘Namgis First Nation in Alert Bay, just off the coast of northern Vancouver Island.

He was known for his mask carvings and as an advocate for Aboriginal rights.

Dick’s health had deteriorated following a stroke several months ago, said Bill Cranmer, a ‘Namgis hereditary chief and chair of the board for the U’Mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay.

“His artwork was so much in demand that it would be sold even before he finished it,” he said. “He has got artwork all around the world.”

Beau Dick Bakwus 1

Bakwus mask carved by Beau Dick.

A few years ago, Dick performed a copper breaking ceremony in front of the B.C. Legislature and at the Parliament buildings in Ottawa to bring attention to injustices in Indigenous communities.

The traditional shaming ceremony was meant to challenge governments to renew the relationship with First Nations.

beau-dick mask“Being the true stewards of our land, we have to step up in our healing, being empowered in modern times to have a voice,” Dick said on CBC News Network’s Power and Politics at the time.

Dick also influenced the next generation of artists on the West Coast.

“The authenticity that he put into everything that he did from his advocacy for Indigenous rights to the details of his masks really resonated with me,” said Carey Newman, a member of Dick’s family and a Kwagiulth artist who lives in Victoria.

“You could feel in every piece that he did that he was coming from a very traditional place. He wasn’t compromising any of his process for say the market. He was doing art that was for his soul.”

Dick was not afraid to take risks with his art, said Sarah Macaulay from Macaulay & Co. Fine Art in Vancouver.

“Someone like him who was a hereditary chief and so engaged in potlatching but still totally ready to step away from tradition, which is a risky thing for a lot of First Nations artists.”

Dick was also active in the ‘Namgis community, taking the time to teach young people about art and traditions, Cranmore said.

“He was quite active in our ceremonies,” he said. “He would be right in there helping.”

There are plans for a service and memorial potlatch in Alert Bay in memory of Dick, Cranmer said.

Beau Dick was in his early 60s.

Posted on March 28, 2017, in Decolonization and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Violet Jane Grey

    He will be sadly missed bye some many. What can one say. His artwork says it all.

  2. My name is Versh Kwakw see stahla Family friend and distant relative of late Beau Dick, an have spoken with his auntie Doreen Fitch who would like to see a correction in your typo. Of where bull dick was from. He is from Dzqwad’enuxw Kingcome inlet British Columbia Canada.
    After spending 4 1/2 hours hours with her and sharing stories in the history of Beau Dick and all the plans that he had made. He will be dearly missed my family and friends and people far around the world.

  3. witnessing Beau perform the copper-breaking ceremony really changed my life. deep honour and gratitude.
    all blessings for his peaceful return

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