A local artist is planning to write a book about one of Port Alberni’s most well known Aboriginal carvers.
Nelson Joseph was a member of the Hupacasath First Nation who died in 1997.
He spent his life in the Alberni Valley, living in his trademark purple house on River Road.
Local Aboriginal artist Rod Sayers also grew up in the Alberni Valley.
He grew up knowing of Joseph’s work, which included plaques, paddles, small totems, rattles and jewellery boxes, all carved from cedar and finished with his trademark brown polish.
“It was distinctive and collected far and wide,” Sayers said.
Joseph, who was one of seven children, was born into a family of carvers.
His late father carved, and his brother Stewart was a wood carver as well until his health prevented him from doing so.
Joseph’s carvings were often sold by the former Greenwood Hotel, which was frequented by visitors from across the world, one family member said.
Sayers has embarked on a project that, if it comes to fruition, will see a book produced that will showcase Joseph’s works and chronicle the life of the man who created them.
Sayers is in the process of collecting carvings and documenting stories about Joseph, who was also affectionately known as Trainer.
He’s also working with staff at the Alberni Valley Museum on another project. “We hope to exhibit a large body of work at the museum,” said Sayers. He hopes the exhibit can be unveiled in 2014.
Joseph was an early influence of Sayers, who said he used to see him walking along River Road with his carvings. “Everywhere I went there seemed to be carvings by Nelson,” Sayers said.
Joseph died without ever having had a formal exhibition of his work, Sayers said. “But it’s important to document his work and its contribution to the history of the Hupacasath people and to the Alberni Valley,” he said.
Anyone willing to share Joseph’s work from their private collections to assist with the project can contact Sayers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
~With files from Rod Sayers