Indigenous Art Collection

The Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist

Red cedar panel (152.2 x 90.9 x 4.9 cm)

John the Baptist is presented as a shaman. He wears red cedar bark clothing, as is the Kwakiutl custom in important ceremonies. The raven rattle he holds symbolizes his status among other chiefs. Around his waist is a belt depicting the sisiutl, a mythical being with a head at each end of its body and a head in the middle of its torso.

Christ is shown as a young man wearing the red cedar bark regalia associated with sacred ceremonies. He is kneeling on a ceremonial cedar chest, which was owned only by the highest ranking chiefs: to possess such a chest allows a chief to give away endless amounts of wealth and power for the benefit of all.

The dove is depicted descending from heaven as a Thunderbird in its half-human and half-mythical form. The Thunderbird is all-powerful and is associated with the creation myth.

I have completed this commission with the same respect given the traditions and art of my ancestors as taught to me by my grandfather, Chief Mungo Martin.

Although our cultures differ, within both traditions there appears a creator and ‘historic’ figures who have dedicated themselves to the spiritual and secular well-being of mankind. I sincerely hope that through this very important project a greater understanding of native culture will result in a spiritual harmony for all peoples of this world.

Victoria, British Columbia