Saturday, September 20, 2014
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First Nations artist Roy Henry Vickers tops bestseller list

Rob Mangelsdorf— WE Vancouver

Over the past 40 years, First Nations artist Roy Henry Vickers' prints have become a ubiquitous sight in this province. And while his work is commonly found on gallery walls, increasingly it is appearing on bookshelves and coffee tables, too.

Vickers currently owns the top two positions atop the BC Bestseller List, with a pair of books that showcase his artwork. In the No. 1 spot is Cloudwalker, a collaboration with historian Robert Budd that tells the story of the creation of BC's sacred rivers, a follow-up to the 2013's national bestseller Raven Brings the Light. Close behind in the No. 2 position is Storyteller, a retrospective on the past decade of his work.

"The success has been mindboggling," says Vickers. "What a delight to know that people are still interested in reading."

Vickers has published several collections of his works over his 40-year career featuring the bold colours and hard lines that make his work instantly recognizable. Having been born and raised on the BC coast, its natural beauty is a common element in his art, as are the traditional First Nations motifs he employs that pay tribute to the original residents of this land.

While Vickers won't speculate as to why so many people have connected with his work, his love for the rugged landscapes of this province is very much apparent in his work.

With such a strong connection to the environment, it's little wonder, then, that Vickers has been such a vocal opponent of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline that would run south of his home in Hazelton.

"It's an absolutely ridiculous plan," he says. "All the major rivers [in BC] they cross. What's carried in this pipeline is literally poison.

"It's insanity."

Cloudwalker has a strong environmental theme as it tells the Gitxsan legend of the creation of the Skeena, Nass, and Stikine Rivers. In the tale, a young hunter is brought into the clouds and unwittingly gives life to the Sacred Headwaters.

Vickers fears that should the Enbridge pipeline plan come to fruition, it will irreparably damage these very same waters, revered as the source of life for all creatures by the Gitxsan, as well as the Tsimshian, Nisga'a, and Tlingit.

"There will be a spill, they will run aground, and what then?" he says. "It will happen. It's not if, it's when."

Cloudwalker is aimed at children, and Vickers says he hopes the story will have a positive influence on the next generation. As a First Nations elder he says he has a responsibility to share the knowledge that he carries.

"We are all role models," he says.  

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