On my way into work today, a young woman to my peripheral left caught my attention. She was carrying a skateboard and I thought “you don’t see that very often” and I was immediately intrigued.
From the ankles up she could’ve been any other young urban professional slogging it to work; non-descript grey pants, button up shirt, sensible overcoat, boring handbag and hair in a polite ponytail. On her feet were worn and very juvenile skateboarding sneakers. From the ankles down she was a sk8tr gurl and when she got to the intersection she put the board down and sailed off.
A gentleman just walking ahead heard the noise and turned towards it, his eyes sparkling with amusement. Amongst all the suits and briefcases and the sea of black, white and grey, here was someone who was unabashedly doing her own thing.
He caught my own amusement smiling eye and we shared a moment. We simultaneously said: good for her and I wish I could be so uninhibited. We then went about our separate lives.
As I entered my building, I started thinking about how we travel and how that affects/reflects our own sense of identity. Americans are notorious for their view that cars are steel extensions of their personalities, Venetians are used to riding in dinghies and the Chinese are mad about their bicycles but what about Canadians? Are we defined by how we get around? I am sure you have feelings about seeing a man riding a Vespa than if you saw him behind the wheel of a Hummer.
When I first met my husband he was driving a very old and very large old Buick. He has always jokingly told people that he know I wasn’t shallow because I dated him when he drove a relic! (Hey, I loved that car as it once moved an entire bedroom set home that I got for a steal, and I don’t even think a minivan could’ve done that!) Plus, I have always attributed personality characteristics and names to my vehicles; they certainly become part of your identity.
Thus, I really appreciated that I had read The Canoe He Called Loo Taas by Amanda Reid-Stevens and illustrated by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas (ISBN: 9780978255367, BENJAMIN Brown Books, 2010) this morning on the train. This is the story of an amazing 50-foot canoe designed by the iconic Haida artist, Bill Reid and carved by members of the Haida community.
This canoe took five months to carve from a redwood tree and by the hands of many carvers in the community. It soon became a community project and describes what Loo Taas means to the Haida community who helped to craft her.
(Cover image copyright@2010 Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas)
In this gorgeous little book, Reid-Stevens’ (Bill Reid’s daughter from his first marriage) poem describes the creation of the canoe called Loo Taas and how it was designed by her father, created by the Haida community and what it means to them as well as to Canada. I love how her simple rhyming poem is set against the beautiful and also simple watercolours by Nicoll Yahgulanaas.
Anyone mildly interested in Canadian aboriginal art, knows Bill Reid’s carvings and jewellery in the traditional Haida style. He was a self taught artist and only found out his Native status (his mother hid her heritage) later in life. His legendary sculptures are known around the world and when he passed on; fittingly his remains travelled back to his mother’s ancestral home via Loo Taas.
The creative apple obviously hasn’t fallen far from the tree, Reid-Stevens is a masterful storyteller as evidenced in this her first book. Born in Toronto and later returned to BC, she has a laundry list of professions either while writing or before writing. She has contributed to Haida Laas, a collection of newsletters and journals published by the Council of the Haida Nation and a contributing writer to SpruceRoots Magazine, an environmental journal.
(Image of Reid-Stevens from BENJAMIN Brown Books Website)
She is also passionate about her community and serves as a member of the Haida Gwaii Museum board of directors and has in the past served on a number of other boards and committees in the Haida community.
Reid-Stevens is the proud mother to three grown children and two granddaughters; this is her first book.
Nicoll Yahgulanaas is an award-winning author and illustrator of Flight of the Hummingbird and the creator of the popular Haida Manga. You can learn more about the man and his work via his website. He is well on his way to becoming his own legend.
(Image of Nicoll Yahgulanaas from his website)
This is a must-read for all ages and a must-have for the serious aboriginal art collector. The poetry and aesthetics would be appealing to any reader and would make a lovely gift. McKellar & Martin (BENJAMIN Brown Books Ltd. is an imprint of M&M)) has such interesting and different titles, their books are wildly appealing both in content and visually. They are a BC independent publishing group to watch as I haven’t seen books like they put out anywhere else. I also love how they focus on Vancouver and British Columbia authors and illustrators.
The Canoe He Called Loo Tass is a poetic reminder that how you get there is as important as getting there.