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Thief walks away with Kwakwaka’wakw artist Richard Hunt’s Lunar New Year lantern design

lantern
Richard Hunt's My Family II is on the far right of The Lantern City exhibition on the north side of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Organizers of The Lantern City exhibitions are appealing for the public’s help following the theft of a prominent Indigenous artist’s work. Richard Hunt is a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of B.C. His design, My Family III, was on one of eight Lunar New Year lanterns in šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl’e7énk Square (north of the Vancouver Art Gallery).

Just after 2 a.m. on Monday (February 26), someone stole the Victoria artist’s work. The Lantern City organizers have reported the incident to the Vancouver Police Department.

Hunt expressed disappointment when told of the theft of the design, which he completed about six months ago. The artist’s Kwakwaka’wakw name is Gwe-la-yo-gwe-la-gya-lis, which means “a man that travels and wherever he goes, he potlatches”.

Kwakwaka’wakw
Kwakwaka’wakw artist Richard Hunt’s My Family III is part of The Lantern City exhibition.

In an interview with Pancouver earlier this month, Hunt said that the lantern design includes a legendary sea serpent, Sisiutl, which is part of his Indigenous culture. My Family III also features a bear with a cub, an eagle with copper hanging from its mouth, and two hummingbirds taking nectar from a flower. In addition, the artist incorporated cedar trees into his design.

“The cedar tree was used for everything by our people—from diapers to coffins to canoes to houses,” Hunt said. “All the other figures are crests that my family owns and rights that my family owns and my people own.”

A dentist in Victoria commissioned the original piece. Hunt provided a copy for The Lantern City exhibition.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Hunt’s My Family III lantern design is asked to contact Vancouver police.

lantern
On Monday morning, Hunt’s design was no longer on the lantern.

For more information on Richard Hunt’s art, visit his website. The Lantern City exhibition at šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl’e7énk Square (north of the Vancouver Art Gallery) continues until February 28. There are also Lantern City exhibitions at Jack Poole Plaza, the Pendulum Gallery, and Ocean Artworks on Granville Island. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

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The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam Indian Band), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish Nation), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation). With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.

The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.