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Driftwood Owl Tanya Bub
25 October, 2021

The Indigenous Nature of Art

Thousands! That’s the number of pieces of driftwood artist Tanya Bub glues together to create her striking sculptures you’ll find at Malahat SkyWalk.

Driftwood cougars, herons, an owl and bald eagle – all native to Vancouver Island and part of Tanya’s Wild Art collection – can be found nestled throughout the Malahat SkyWalk experience.

Look closely as you arrive at the Gathering Place, embark along the TreeWalk, and reach the entrance to the Spiral Tower. To see her sculptures in person will stop you in your tracks. You feel both the true-to-life size and spirit of each bird or animal.

Based in Victoria, Tanya only recently started working as an artist. In 2019, she was walking on the beach near her home and noticed a piece of driftwood that looked like a breeching Orca whale. This inspired Tanya to collect enough driftwood to make a face. She created a number of these mask-like sculptures before moving into busts and full human figures.

Animals followed – squirrels, ducks, wolves and more – and now most of her artwork is displayed in a natural setting as part of the environment from which it came. She also works with other found objects like shells and kelp, as well as wire and paper mâché.

Tanya believes that people can appreciate the history of the trees that came to be a part of her sculptures, which deepens the connection to her artwork. This is not unlike the experience you will have at Malahat SkyWalk, finding a deeper connection to nature as you are immersed in an arbutus and Douglas fir forest.

This same forest was once home to the Malahat Nation, part of the Coast Salish Peoples. Malahat SkyWalk is located on the traditional and ancestral territory of the Malahat Nation and their Indigenous stories are embedded in the natural environment and your experience at Malahat SkyWalk.

Two custom works of art have been created by Coast Salish Master Carver John Marston for Malahat SkyWalk, including Thunderbird and a traditional cedar canoe. We are grateful to receive these gifts.

Thunderbird is revered by Coast Salish Peoples as the powerful and fearsome protector of this land. Reaching skywards, Thunderbird points one wing forward and one backwards.

Look closer to discover the equally powerful relationship between the artists and the water that beckons their Coast Salish community. From every angle, each hand-carved and graceful curve reflects the prow of a canoe, and salmon are shown in the wings.

The charred back of the sculpture is a traditional method that seals the wood and at times was part of the carving process. For these artists, traditional hand tools and processes are the preferred way to finish a piece.

Marsten is drawn to canoes. They are a symbol of the way his Coast Salish culture is tied to the ocean. When creating this sculpture, the beauty and grace of a traditional dugout canoe inspired its design. With every curve and texture, the artist connects to a vibrant cultural identity that is rooted in tradition and thrives in the present.

In addition to Thunderbird, John has also gifted Malahat SkyWalk with a traditional cedar canoe which is suspended from the ceiling of our Welcome Centre above the café and gift shop. Over ten years in the making, this stunning canoe was a labour of love. The canoe is a compelling symbol of the traditional Coast Salish way of life – a life spent on the ocean and waterways around Vancouver Island and beyond to farther reaches of British Columbia.

The journey of creation for this art piece was a tangible way for the carver to connect to his ancestors, cultural identity and community as the canoe was often worked on at gatherings and events. This canoe is a traditional Harbour Style. Its shape lends itself to being stealth in the water and an ease of pulling onto shore. Its finished painted design symbolizes the killer whale, salmon and human living in harmony.

Coast Salish Peoples relied on canoes like this. They used them to travel seasonally between village sites, and hunting and foraging grounds. Modern Coast Salish Peoples, including the Malahat Nation, use canoes for racing and ceremony, bringing communities together in celebration of cultural identity.

We hope you feel the spirit of these symbols and artwork when you visit Malahat SkyWalk. Not only will Malahat SkyWalk continue to provide a gathering place for locals and travellers alike to connect with each other, we provide an experience that connects all people to this unique natural place.