Sisiyutł and other Mythological Creatures

Image: John A. Sharkey & Hamdzatsi Collective, carved woodblock details.

Image: John A. Sharkey & Ha̲mdzat̓si Collective, carved woodblock details.

Image: John A. Sharkey & Ha̲mdzat̓si Collective, carved woodblock details.

Image: John A. Sharkey & Ha̲mdzat̓si Collective, 'Sisiyutł, 2023, woodblock print detail, 40

Image: John A. Sharkey & Ha̲mdzat̓si Collective, 'Sisiyutł, 2023, woodblock print detail, 40"h x 144"w.

Main Gallery: Ha̲mdzat̓si Collective, 'Sisiyutł and other Mythological Creatures', 2024.

Main Gallery: Ha̲mdzat̓si Collective, 'Sisiyutł and other Mythological Creatures', 2024.


Main Gallery
Sisiyutł and other Mythological Creatures
Ha̲mdzat̓si Collective
April 19, 2024 – June 1, 2024

OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 19, 5-7 pm at Open Studio, Suite 104, 401 Richmond St. W, Toronto.

Please note that this exhibition will mark the final scheduled Main Gallery exhibition before Open Studio’s temporary closure for space restructuring from July 2024 to December 2024. Our front-of-house area will be open to the public during this time, but programming will be temporarily paused while we feature items for sale from our shop and archive.


John A. Sharkey (Coast Salish), Charles Jules (Nuu-chah-nulth), and Hereditary Chief Shawn Decaire (Kwakwaka’wakw) live on unceded Liǧʷiɫdax̌ʷ Territories (North Vancouver Island) and work collaboratively as members of the Ha̲mdzat̓si Collective. They can often be heard sharing and comparing stories, and dispensing Elder-in-training wisdom, as they work in the studio. Inspired by Kwakwaka’wakw design, this installation consists of large-scale, hand-printed representations of the sisiyutł and other mythological creatures from the Pacific Northwest Coast, and audio recordings that honour the region’s storytelling traditions.

Supernatural stories originate from family treasure boxes and have been passed among people since time immemorial. They give grounding and origin to the ancestral communities that they come from. Stories acknowledge the lifeforce and power of sacred figures of animal and human form, and their role in shaping the realms – the mortal world, the sky world, the land beneath the sea, and the ghost world – that exist within Kwakwaka’wakw mythology. These moralizing tales are oral histories that teach people how to conduct themselves respectfully, warn of danger and celebrate the values of potlatch culture.

The members of the Ha̲mdzat̓si Collective love to tell and depict stories through their designs. This is an act of preservation that helps to keep the stories alive and to transmit traditional culture to the community, especially younger generations. Stories may vary depending on the nation, the region, or the family that the storyteller comes from.

The Campbell River-based Ha̲mdzat̓si Collective was formed in 2023 as a way for talented Indigenous artists to support one another, collaborate, and share knowledge. John A. Sharkey, Charles Jules, and Shawn Decaire are three of the core members. The collective fluctuates due to the challenges faced by unhoused individuals, which include the ongoing struggles with intergenerational trauma. Ha̲mdzat̓si, a Kwak’wala word for beehive, exemplifies the way each member contributes to the success of the entire community, through the master and apprenticeship tradition. The act of carving lives in the DNA of most of the members, and as a result they have connected naturally to printmaking. Because of the affinities between the two media, Nadine Bariteau has been sharing her mastery of printmaking with the members for several years. The Collective was born from the Art Hive, a community program at the Campbell River Art Gallery that supports members of the unhoused community to make art in a safe environment. The result has been incredible, uplifting artists and creating a strong sense of family and mutual respect. The exhibiting artists gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the other members who helped with the project. This is the Ha̲mdzat̓si Collective’s first exhibition.

Read more about The Art Hive here: https://www.crartgallery.ca/art-hive/

The Ha̲mdzat̓si Collective gratefully acknowledges funding support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Campbell River Art Gallery.

Canada Council for the Arts