‘ehhwe’p syuth (TO SHARE HISTORY)

When I first began to envision and create this piece I knew for certain that I would want to reflect the time I spent and emotion I felt while on the Sepik River. Throughout the progress of this piece the concepts within have become a celebration of both cultures, nature and design. My reasoning for creating a work of such complexity is that this work was to tell a story that I lived and was part of.

Design was the first aspect I contemplated, as the piece progressed and evolved, the most prominent concepts found within would have to contain its own representation in order to suggest its emerging context. First you will see that the suns and the moons on either side are placed on opposing positions. This symbolizes the two cultures that are geographically a world apart but similar in so many ways. Four face masks carved from New Guinea rosewood are placed beneath the exterior Yellow Cedar suns and moons can only be viewed while looking in through the negative space that has been removed. This is the embodiment of the people found within the diverse cultures. Two on either side symbolizing the balance of male and female resonates to the importance of balance in ceremony.

The supporting posts carved from Black Walnut are Sea Wolves, the guardians of land and water. The pins that support the stance of the centre panel are carved from ebony in the shapes of snakes and salmon. The carved Rosewood border symbolizes the connection we have with water and also the connection to the forest. Our ways of life rely heavily on the ability to connect to these sacred places.

Also within the border sections of design are inlayed with Black Walnut in four areas. This represents the four directions which is an important part of our ceremonial life. The influence found in Papua New Guinea helped distinguish colours, these much brighter pigments are direct tones found within the land. The Killer whales and Crocodiles at the base of the posts are reinforcements. They are supporting one another and have become brothers, also reflecting the role these creatures play in both nations historical legends.

The fine braided Cedar bark rope symbolizes the connection and ties that have bound the cultures together. The significance of weaving to each culture is an aspect that speaks to the very core values and beliefs of both people. The presence of bark is also a traditional symbol of respect, this is showing the connection these two elements once shared as a sacred tree, growing caring and protecting one another.

The design of the panel depicts many different animals found in Papua New Guinea and Canada. These sacred animals are found within positive and negative space. The head, eye and mouth may appear in negative space, while the wings flow off these lines into positive. Colours change, but forms continue to stay together. Highlight painting introduces a glimpse of design changing but also holding other forms.

For me this carving is a symbol of connection between different cultures. Our patience and understanding for one another. Our willingness to help, and our kindness in sharing tradition. Ehwep Syuth also reflects the value of taking time to look deeper, to truly understand people.

-John Marston


Location: The Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver B.C.

Documentary: Killer Whale and Crocodile