The vision for this project is to tell the story of Tsain-Ko, the double-headed sea serpent, after which the development corporation and the shopping centre are named. Properly spelled ch’inkwu, and pronounced like “chain kwo”, the double-headed sea serpent represents a duality of being, both good and evil. It is a symbol of strength, power, and invulnerability; the king of the sea that brings protection but should also be feared. Given that the project is made up of seven separate pieces, the intent is that a story of ch’inkwu is told along those seven pieces.
Tsain-Ko Centre released this RFP for conceptual artwork on April 1, 2020. The RFP closed on May 28 and Chief and Council have now shortlisted the submissions to two finalists. Please cast your vote below for your favorite submission. Once complete, the selected artwork will be produced and showcased along the large building at the Shopping Centre.
This submission is a culmination of effort from multiple areas within the shíshálh Nation. Its components were arrived at through consultation with shíshálh members, elders, and cultural keepers. Because of the public nature of this artwork we felt it was also important to address key areas which we feel make the project as authentic as possible in design and concept while also acknowledging the operational reality that the work will be placed in a commercial setting and therefore need to meet further technical criteria.
Before describing the meaning and sentiment behind the proposed piece it is important to outline certain key factors associated with Indigenous art in general and Coast Salish art in particular. Indigenous art on the Northwest Coast of North America is much more than something aesthetically pleasing. It was, and still is, our only written language. Its endless variances of symbols, and further nuances within those symbols, have for millennia provided a means for our peoples to codify our history, culture, worldview, and our laws. Coast Salish artwork has its own indelible style along with its own symbolism, and the figures depicted in some cases contain highly sophisticated messaging and/or teachings.
The stories that are passed down involving ch’inkwu are many and involve multiple teachings. First and foremost, in everything I have been told about ch’inkwu, its power is the thing that is most exalted. This power is supernatural and is beyond anything represented in other shíshálh story figures. Ch’inkwu is described as able to slice through mountains creating valleys and inlets. It is also a mystical figure rarely seen in its entirety but making its presence known always in monumental fashion. It has been seen snacking up massive waterfall, but also making deep waters boil when careless hunters have angered it. Although ch’inkwu can be frightful the depiction I get is moreover respect. Its double heads have been said to represent notions of “good and evil”, which ties very closely with a longstanding Coast Salish prime directive: always seek to restore balance. Many stories surrounding the ch’inkwu involve it acting to protect resources (cod,salmon) from those who have taken too much thus placing the environment out of balance. After careful deliberation of the canvases TKDC has provided, along with the suggestion that further shíshálh Nation story figures be included I would like to propose that we include not only ch’inkwu, but also chas’kin (Golden Eagle), and stalashen (Killer Whale). These figures will appear in succession along the canvases with the body of ch’inkwu appearing among them. Intertwined will also be our sacred Salmon depicting the offerings these figures would present to ch’inkwu. This artwork I feel would suffice to express the nature of powerful ch’inkwu but also the reverence of these other creatures of ch’inkwu, and our Peoples’ respect as we carry on the stories.
I was very intrigued by this project. The idea of shíshálh legends presented for everyone to see sounds like something I’d like to be a part of. It makes me proud to be shíshálh knowing that our culture is coming back to life after everything our people have been through. With opportunities to present our culture like these it will give us the chance to be heard and help us on the path of healing.
I’ve created seven art pieces that are hopefully visually appealing for the story of the sea serpent. My first piece is a frog reaching for the moon. The reason behind this, the frog has been seen as a very powerful animal, considering its unique hibernation. An animal able to come back to life after being frozen for months. Always found at the bottom of a totem pole to hold up other animals because of its strength. The frog is bringing the moon as a gift for the sea serpent. My second piece is a thunder bird bringing a salmon to the serpent. My third piece is a wolf howling at the moon, to bring it out from the night sky for the serpent. My fourth piece is a killer whale hitting a salmon towards the serpent as a gift. My fifth piece is the serpents wealthy feast gathered by fellow animals. My sixth piece is the double-headed sea serpent holding the moon in appreciation from ts animal friends. My inspiration for the serpent was the pictograph in our inlet, wrapping around an animal, something resembling a deer. I’ve also considered this in the centre of the serpent. My seventh piece is a wise owl looking at the moon. Owl’s are old and wise, a symbol of good and bad omens, fitting for the representation of the serpent. I apologize for the short and sweet story, but I hope it makes sense. I’ve heard this story told a few different ways. The order of the images could go several ways with different outcomes.