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Side View - Orca and Thunderbird Bentwood Box - Bruce Alfred | by A.Davey
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Side View - Orca and Thunderbird Bentwood Box - Bruce Alfred

Side view of Orca and Thunderbird bentwood box by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Bruce Alfred, of the 'Namgis First Nation, Alert Bay, Cormorant Island, British Columbia, Canada.


I saw the Orca right away, but it took the dealer to point out to me that Thunderbird appears on the end of the box. One end shows the head and face; the other, the tail. I have sent a follow-up email seeking clarification on what, exacty, is depicted within the Orca's body on the side panels. I see the flukes and the pectoral fins, but there may be more to it than that.


\I purchased the box from the "Just Art" gallery in Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island in July, 2009. The piece was completed in 2008.


The description on the Just Art Website reads:


"This Traditional Steamed Bentwood Box is made from Red cedar and Yellow cedar, the measurement's are 19 inches long by 8 inches wide and is 6 inches in height. The designs are deeply carved and the corner has been pegged."


The gallery's Web site provides additional information about the design:


"Killer Whale is an important participant in the Dhuwlaxa dance of the kwakwaka’wakw."


"Thunderbird is very important to the Kwakwaka’wakw, who in legendary times made a deal with the powerful bird; in exchange for Thunderbird’s aid during a crisis, the Kwakwaka’wakw agreed to honor him for all time by making his image prominent in their art."


Just Art's Web site also provides biographical information about the artist:


"Bruce Alfred, a Kwakwaka’wakw artist of the Namgis band was born 1950 in Alert Bay, British Columbia. He was raised and currently resides in a village in Alert Bay, situated along the southern coast of the province, immersed in the traditional of the Kwakwaka’wakw culture. He is one of the premier artists of his nation."


"Alfred stems from a long line of prominent artists. He is first cousins with the renowned Hunt brothers and throughout his career has worked with such prominent artists as Wayne Alfred, Beau Dick and Richard Hunt. World-renowned artist, Doug Cranmer was instrumental in teaching Alfred the elements of designing and engraving and introduced him to the art of steam bending wood boxes and chests."


"Alfred’s career spans 30 years. He presently focuses on steam bent boxes and chest that are consistently elaborately carved and painted. His signature is in the shaping of the lid, which resembles a seat. This reveals a traditional style of chests owned by the Chief that sit on the box during special occasions."

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Taken on June 7, 2009