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Canadian First Nations art joins First Australians

14 FEBRUARY 2006

In a series of firsts, the National Museum's First Australians Gallery will host an exhibition of Canada's First Nation Peoples from the Northwest Coast - People of the Cedar.

Developed by the National Museum of Australia in Canberra and the High Commission of Canada, People of the Cedar: First Nations Art from the Northwest Coast of Canada is a collection of 47 modernist works including masks and carvings, textiles and paintings, which reflect a deeply spiritual relationship to British Columbia's coast and forests.

Canadian High Commissioner Michael Leir said he was honoured that the People of the Cedar exhibition would be displayed in such a prestigious venue as the National Museum of Australia, where it will be seen by a wide audience.

'The works in this collection express the richness of a relearned tradition, reaffirmed in the modern multicultural society that Canada is today,' the High Commissioner said.

'The exhibition includes early works by Canadian First Nations artists who are now internationally renowned, such as Dempsey Bob, who will be present at the official opening.'

National Museum director Craddock Morton said the exhibition was a wonderful chance to show the indigenous art and culture of a country which shared so many common historical experiences with Australia, and to encourage dialogue between the two countries.

'Considering these works not only as art but as a physical representation of traditional beliefs helps enrich our understanding of them and the culture from which they come,' Mr Morton said.

Media are invited to attend the official opening of People of the Cedar: First Nations Art from the Northwest Coast of Canada in the Museum's Garden of Australian Dreams at 10.30am on Thursday, 2 March.

People of the Cedar was curated by the High Commission's Inge Rumble and Canadian Northwest Coast art historian Rocque Berthiaume. The collection was established by the Government of Canada as a travelling exhibition in the mid-1970s and includes significant loans of historic Northwest Coast works from the collections of the Australian Museum, the National Gallery of Australia and the Melbourne Museum.

The exhibition will be complemented by a range of programs including the Federation Dialogues Series, Totems and Turtles, when Dempsey Bob and Yirrkala artist Banduk Marika will discuss making Indigenous art in the 21st century, at a free event at the Museum on 5 March.

The People of the Cedar exhibition programs have been made possible by the support of Alcan. The exhibition is on show in the National Museum's First Australians Focus Gallery from 2 March to 28 May. Entry is free.

For interviews, images and more information please contact
Inge Rumble on 02 6270 4022, 0417 212 634
or Leanda Kitchen on 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710
or media@nma.gov.au