#2 Second Beach Road
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The Hlk’yak’ii: To Start a Fire art exhibition is part of a Haida Gwaii grassroots movement to find new, local and sustainable ways to meet our energy needs and to move away from our dependence on diesel to generate electricity. There have been decades of local resistance against unsustainable energy sources over the years, but we also recognize our dependence upon them, and that solutions are required in order to bring change.
In September 2018, this movement gained momentum with the signing of the People’s Clean Energy Declaration at the Haida Gwaii Renewable Energy Symposium hosted by Swiilawiid Sustainability Society and the Council of the Haida Nation. The People’s Declaration pledges that the Islands will achieve energy sovereignty by 2023 (though the COVID-19 pandemic might have slowed things down a bit).
Today, Swiilawiid and the Museum are thrilled to present the art exhibition Hlk’yak’ii: To Start a Fire, featuring the work of sixteen artists, and one artist collective, from Haida Gwaii and across North America. Art can have the power to shift us out of our default mode of seeing, giving us courage to imagine ourselves and our role as human beings in new ways, inspiring us to take action in our personal lives and within our communities. We can tap into the visionary power of art to motivate us on our path towards sustainable energy solutions for Haida Gwaii, as well as contributing to lowering overall global greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use.
In working towards this exhibition, Artists were encouraged to explore the broader issues of the human relationship to energy, as well as opportunities for increasing energy independence on Haida Gwaii. The artists give us a wide range of responses to the issues of climate change and sustainable energy, both in their art pieces and their written statements. Dolly Garza and Billy Yovanovich remind us of the ultimate gift of energy — Light, released into the world by Raven — and how we can honour this gift of enlightenment to move us forward to a more sustainable energy future. Benedicte Hansen, Betsy Cardell, Jen Wilson, Kiernan Wright, Dustin Cross and Dwyer Cross envision technologies that could replace diesel-generated electricity on Haida Gwaii. George Rammell, Jason Goetzinger and Laurel Terlesky reveal the cultural and political ideologies, and the psychology that keep us hooked into a damaging, fossil fuel-backed global economy. Five artists, Judy and Benson Hilgemann, Rolf Bettner, Ebony Rose, and Sandra Price reflect on Nature’s cycles, Earth’s long history of climate change and how human beings might respond in the future. Together, the work in the exhibition gives us a fertile ground to reflect on and consider our own actions, what we can each do and what we can do together to prevent catastrophic climate change.
This exhibition invites the visitor to ask: What am I doing to address the climate emergency in my daily life, and for my community?
The people and communities of Haida Gwaii have shown that the means, the technologies, and the will to achieve energy sovereignty are already engaged. Solar panels, heat pumps, geothermal, and biomass facilities heat public buildings in all of the Islands’ communities. Hydro-electricity powers 80% of the Islands southern communities. Local entrepreneurs have developed viable tidal and wind-powered proposals that could get us off diesel. Renewable energy systems can be found on residences, boats, remote youth camps, and Haida Gwaii Watchmen cabins throughout Haida Gwaii, including Haida Gwaii Museum and Haida Heritage Centre, where power consumption is fuelled by solar and geothermal power in addition to Hydro. Truly, it is up to us to make the leap from fossil fuels to renewable energies, to protect our waters, lands and airways.
Nathalie Macfarlane & Wiiget Jaad Cherie Wilson, curators
Kara Sievewright & Jen Bailey, graphic design
Gid yahk’ii Sean Young, SGaan Kwahagang James McGuire, Aay Aay Hans and John Wilson, art preparation/installation
K’aayhlt’aa Haanas Valine Brown and Jisgang Nika Collison, project leads