Atlakima Performance at Talbot Rice Gallery

Documentation of the first Atlakim (Dance of the Forest Spirits) performance outside of British Columbia, curated as part of the Pine’s Eye exhibition in Edinburgh in February 2020.

The event is introduced by Patricia Nolie who tells the story of the Atlikima. She explains how the dances, which are passed down hereditary generations through treasure boxes, allow participants to enter into the world of the ancestors. The Atlakim dance is part of Hereditary Chief William Hawkins Box of Treasures and was performed by ten members of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation.

Hereditary chief Alan Hunt introduces the dance in song, blessing the floor and guests with white feathers before leading the dance with his drum and voice. After the first sequence of dances Alan explains some of the sacred and cosmological aspects of the dances and the hereditary, marriage and naming traditions of the Kwakwaka’wakw houses and clans. Later Alan tells the story of Baxbakwalanuxsiwae, the man-eater at the North End of the World, whose story is central to the Hamatsa tradition. Alan and Patricia then explain the importance of the central fire for potlatch ceremonies in the Big House.

Alan and Patricia are both members of the Hamatsa secret society whose regalia they wear.

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