Whale Rider (2021)
Oil on canvas
Alan Syliboy grew up believing that native art was generic. “As a youth, I found painting difficult and painful, because I was unsure of my identity.” But his confidence grew in 1972 when he studied privately with Shirley Bear. He then attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where 25 years later, he was invited to sit on the Board of Governors. Syliboy looks to the indigenous Mi’kmaq petroglyph tradition for inspiration and developed his own artistic vocabulary out of those forms. His popularization of these symbolic icons has conferred on them a mainstream legitimacy that restores community pride in its Mi’kmaq heritage.
“The Whale Rider represents man’s similarities to the whale and the close connection that we have with these creatures. It is said that the Whale writes the history of Mother Earth. It still has a connection to the land as it must surface to breathe. Its songs are about the relationship between the Universe and Mother Earth.”