Coast Salish designs and Hul’q’umi’num language create connection at Beban Pool with new artwork

One of a series of art instalments by Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun, for Beban pool.
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New artwork inspired by the ecosystems of the Nanaimo River Estuary will be installed at Beban Park Pool month.

New artwork inspired by the ecosystems of the Nanaimo River Estuary will be installed at Beban Park Pool this month. Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun, designed a series of seven distinctive banners and three new murals, which are being installed while the facility is closed to the public.

“My goal is to create a connection between the audience and the art to create a deeper understanding and appreciation of the history, culture and nature of Snuneymuxw and our territory — I want to show other people who we are, I want future generations of Coast Salish people to grow up surrounded by our art,” said White-Hill.

White-Hill said he thoughtfully considers how swimmers use the pool and wishes to reinforce the Hul’q’umi’num language learning happening in schools across the region, creating an opportunity and level of comfort for learners to practice their vocabulary. Interpretive signage with English and Hul’q’umi’num words and a take-away guide will be made available to share information, language and stories related to the artwork.

“I want to honour our territory by wrapping it in the blanket of our art once more. I feel strongly that it will form a connection between all peoples who live in our territory and see it, a connection that will create space where empathy and understanding can flourish across cultural divides,” he said.

White-Hill consulted with the Snuneymuxw First Nation Elders Advisory Committee, Hul’q’umi’num language teacher Gary Manson and Elder Bill White. The city convened a small team to support White-Hill, which included Nanaimo Art Gallery curator Jesse Birch and Cory Landels, a graphic designer. Painter Jesse Campbell is translating White-Hill’s designs onto the walls at the pool. 

“This young and talented artists’ work communicates stories, values and language that are critical to our understanding of the history of this land, our understanding of the present and ultimately our shared future. I know this beautiful work will provide inspiration and joy, and I congratulate and thank the artist,” said Mayor Leonard Krog.

The project at the pool is among White-Hill’s first major art commissions. A date for reopening the pool is not yet determined.

“Eliot has a powerful voice and is a gifted storyteller,” said Julie Bevan, manager of culture & events for the city of Nanaimo. “We wanted to empower him to realize an ambitious vision and tell stories through art.”

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