Beau Dick: Hamat’sa Dance

Beau Dick’s mask, on exhibit at Satellite Gallery until March 29, 2014, is not just a work of art or an object for display. It was created for and danced during a Hamat’sa dance at the artist’s potlatch in 2010. We would like to thank Beau Dick for generously sharing this video clip of the mask as it is ceremonially presented in the community bighouse at Alert Bay. 

The Hamat’sa dance is today considered part of the most sacred Kwakwaka’wakw ceremony, and the privilege is held by initiated members of the Hamat’sa society. The dance privilege originated among, and is actively practiced by, Aboriginal people of the central Northwest Coast, including the Heiltsuk and Wuikenuxv, among others.

Beau Dick was born in Kingcome Inlet, BC, a remote Kwakwaka’wakw village north of Vancouver Island, before moving to Vancouver, BC at age 6. From a young age he was heavily influenced by the traditional carving work of both his grandfather and father, who he assisted in carving one of the world’s tallest totem poles in Alert Bay, BC. At age 17 he was asked to apprentice under artist Tony Hunt in Victoria, BC. Eventually returning to Vancouver, he continued to hone his carving techniques under the influence of Doug Cranmer.

In the last decade, Beau Dick’s work has been shown in a number of international exhibitions. It was featured alongside that of artist Neil Campbell in the 2004 exhibition Supernatural: Beau Dick and Neil Campbell at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver, followed by the 2005 Totems to Turquoise exhibit in both New York and Vancouver. In 2009, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection showcased Beau’s work in their exhibit entitled Challenging Traditions: Contemporary First Nations Art of the Northwest Coast. In 2010, Beau was invited to display his art at the 17th Biennale of Sydney in Sydney, Australia, and in 2013 in a summer exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Beau Dick is currently artist-in-residence at the University of BC, hosted by the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory





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