Marianne Nicolson is a member of the Dzawada’enuxw Tribe of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations. She is an internationally-known contemporary artist, and a Ph.D. candidate in the Departments of Linguistics and Anthropology at the University of Victoria. Her work is outstanding and profound and if you get a chance to see her studio pieces, then by all means do so.
One work you will not be seeing in a gallery anytime soon is her massive pictograph, Cliff Painting, near the head of Kingcome Inlet in her traditional territory (map). The work is over 15 metres high by 10 metres wide, emblazoned on a prominent cliff as you round the final corner heading into Kingcome (video, scroll down). It formed the focal point of the book by Judith Williams Two Wolves at the Dawn of Time, which is highly recommended. Painted using scaffolds lowered from above the cliff, the work is a profound statement of power and energy. The image is of a “copper“, a large shield-shaped symbol of chiefly power, family prestige and spiritual inheritance, among many more nuanced meanings. Many pictographs on the coast are fading away, rinsed by sun and rain, vandalized even. This massive pictograph takes a stance for all the past, present, and future powers of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation.