Cultural Background: Heiltsuk, Bella Bella, BC (Waglisla)
Heiltsuk artist Ben Houstie was born in Bella Bella, BC (Waglisla) in 1960. Ben’s works include: original paintings, limited edition prints, carved cedar rattles and paddles. He has worked with Cheryl Hall, Robert Hall, David Gladstone and Beau Dick. In 1988, Ben worked under Bill Reid painting several drums of Bill’s designs and 20 paddles for the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. Ben also painted several reconstructed artworks in 2000 for the Museum of Anthropology’s ‘The Transforming Image’ exhibition, at the University of British Columbia.
“As a child, I had the opportunity to watch master carver, Mungo Martin, worked on the world’s largest totem pole, in Alert Bay, B.C. I had been removed from my family and community and placed in St Michael’s residential school in Alert Bay. Residential schools were designed to “remove” culture and promote assimilation and yet ironically in Alert Bay, I found the artistic traditions of our culture. As a survivor I am deeply impacted by the painful experiences of being in a residential school. My art is part of my healing and provides a connection to my culture. Working with Bill Reid as well as a project featuring bent box designs created by my great grandfather, Daniel Houstie were critical in my understanding of our unique art forms. I have committed my life to Northwest Coast Art and am delighted that my son Christopher is following in our family tradition.”