Cliff Painting by Marianne Nicolson

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.

Cliff Painting in Progress. Source: The Medicine Project.

5 responses to “Cliff Painting by Marianne Nicolson

  1. Awesome painting, amazing canvas and frame.

    At some point it could pose a conundrum for cultural resource managers because it will become protected by the Heritage Conservation Act at some point, if not already:

    About rock aret the act says:
    s.13 – (2) Except as authorized by a permit issued under section 12 or 14, or an order issued under section 14, a person must not do any of the following:
    (c) damage, alter, cover or move an aboriginal rock painting or aboriginal rock carving that has historical or archaeological value.

    Historical and archaeological value are not defined in the HCA, but:
    “heritage value” means the historical, cultural, aesthetic, scientific or educational worth or usefulness of a site or object.

    There are petrogplyphs that are protected which can be dated, one from the 1920’s that is part of the Kitkiata Inlet site (that panel was included in the BC inventory of sites in 1981 when it was 55 years old). So it is not fanciful to expect that this location will be protected, quite possibly within Marianne Nicolson’s lifetime.


  2. Maybe someone should submit a site form and see what happens.


  3. Hi, my class is going on a field trip to your exhibit and I’m very excited to see your work.


  4. amazing painting, great artistic concept – look forward to learning more


  5. Pingback: #856 Alas, poor British Columbia – The Ormsby Review

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