Port Alberni artist Shayne Lloyd has started to work on his ‘building relationships’ mural on the side of the Canadian Maritime Engineering building.
“It’s good to finally lay down the colour,” Lloyd said on Friday, Aug. 7—the first week of a three-week process. He started on Aug. 4 by sketching in an outline of his mural, which will be a collage of images depicting the history of Tseshaht First Nation. He painted a number of Nuu-chah-nulth words on the backdrop as well. His mural will represent the landscape prior to colonization and industrialization.
Lloyd has collaborated with renowned Indigenous artists Tim Paul and Gordon Dick on his mural. He has also consulted with Tseshaht First Nation members, because the building on which he is painting is located on Tseshaht hereditary land.
Lloyd collaborated with Dick and Paul on the murals’ conception. Lloyd and Paul have already collaborated on one mural, along with Cecil Dawson, on the side of Archie Zanolli’s building (the whale mural on the side of the building on lower Johnston Road). Lloyd and Paul were working on a blueprint of a totem pole when Lloyd said he was interested in putting his name in for what was then being billed as a reconciliation mural.
“I came up with a mockup. I just kept bouncing ideas off Tim and Gord, and Gord in the later stages has been a big help in terms of making sure a lot of the form line is actually true to Tseshaht First Nations artwork. A lot of the ovoids and spirit lines actually represent the artwork as they would be used in their true form.”
Some of the images in the mural depict the Tseshaht’s creation story, Lloyd said.
“Tseshaht refers to a great whaling people,” Tseshaht Manager of Natural Resources Darrell Ross explained, and “Tseshaht” translates as ‘people from a smelly place,’ reflecting that they were such successful whale hunters that the Tseshaht village reeked of dead whales.
The Tseshaht creation story is based in the Broken Group Islands. At one point there were five different First Nations that amalgamated to create Tseshaht. “So the five people and the five wolves represent that,” Lloyd said. Orcas transform into wolves, “so that’s why there are five wolves.”
There are going to be five drums, and the Tseshaht will select five elders to be depicted in the circles.
There is a feather on the right side of the mural that will include a collage of contemporary dancers, singers and drummers.
This week, Nuu-chah-nulth words are visible on the wall, but they will disappear as the mural progresses.
“When doing a big-scale mural, I am now doing what is basically called a scribble method. That method can be totally random marks and such. Because of the importance of this mural, when working with Corey Anderson of the Tseshaht First Nation, I said give me a list of First Nations words in writing, and I’ll write that on the walls. It will be a backdrop layer of positivity that this mural can be based on. “
While the words are visible at the beginning of the process, it is Lloyd’s intent to cover them up completely, so they will become part of the artwork.
“A lot of the words in there are actual First Nations words and sayings quite relevant to the scene. ‘We are all one’ is the big phrase on the bottom; chief; wolf; I actually have a list of them. A lot of the elements in the mural, say drum, mountain, moon, sun, star, community, orca, canoe. A lot of phrases that are included visually in there, they translated for me.”
It was a challenge to sketch them on the brick wall at first, because the scissor lift didn’t have a full charge, he said. “I had to paint it backwards, so spreading the words in reverse of a dialect I don’t understand, which was very challenging.”
Lloyd was the successful applicant for the mural project more than a year ago, when it was billed as a reconciliation art project. However, all bids received were more expensive than what the sponsoring group, Arrowsmith Rotary, anticipated—so some fundraising needed to be done before the mural could proceed.
He will spend three weeks working on his mural: the first week was layout, the second week is for colour work, and the third week for details.
Members of the public are welcome to come down and watch Lloyd as he paints the mural for the next couple of weeks. Work is progressing quickly. Arrowsmith Rotary is still holding its Brick by Brick fundraising campaign to cover the estimated $50,000 cost of the mural.
To purchase a brick for $25, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Arrowsmith Rotary Facebook page. Orders can also be placed in person at INEO Employment Services and Swale Rock Cafe (both on Argyle Street).
—With a file from Elena Rardon, Alberni Valley News
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