Posted by Daniela Elza on Sep 01 2008

Last week I saw a presentation by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas on art memory and the power of small.

Michael Yahgulanaas is the father of Haida Manga, which re-frames traditional Haida images by adapting them into Japanese manga-styled stories. His style denotes his propensity to “play the edge between the neighbourhoods,” a talent he learned growing up as a light-haired, green-eyed kid in a Haida community. True to that duality, his work expresses his social and environmental concerns with a “trickster-like sense of humour” (The Georgia Straight).

At the bottom of the page in the above link you can see the four panels bearing the letters of re-me-mb-er. I found it quite interesting how he used the text and the image to speak about narrative, community, memory.

Here is a story he illustrated and is up on You-Tube. For more of his art, and info about him you can visit his website. See what he does with the hoods of cars. Or a whole car. He is a trickster. Playful, messing around with our status symbols. Not to mention de-romanticizing the indigenous art that we find comfortable and like to view only in a certain way. Those totem poles, in the myst. I also love the fact that the decades he has spend in political activity are informing his art and making powerful statements both about culture, and environment. And again that playfulness, that messing around. My type of intervention.

I loved the part where he talked about meaning. Finding meaning. Any meaning. This made me think of the poem and how for too long we have insisted in school that a poem has a fixed meaning, that the black cat is symbolic of this or that. I found that approach off putting because I really liked the black cat poem, and I did not really want the meaning the teacher was giving me. I find this blinds us to the possibilities of what it could mean now, this moment, to the people who are willing to look for meaning. For too long we have been held prisoners of such meanings, to the point where we have become uninvolved, apathetic, alienated. Where the hierarchies of those that have the meaning and those who do not have the meaning are reinforced.

I liked this idea of making meaning anew, and building communities around the meanings we make.

3 Responses to “HaidaManga”

  1. mny Says:


    there were two particularly appropriate comments made on Wednesday night.
    One was your clear observation regarding the authority of who describes meaning, the other was me saying thank you.


  2. Daniela Elza Says:

    Thanks, Michael. My daughter, 11, saw your book and read it in one sitting. Both my kids enjoyed the animation on you-tube. It is beautiful. Then my eight year old son brought the book to bed one night and decided he will read me the story of dukdukdiya (the little humming bird).

  3. Strange Places » di.versify Says:

    […] gets, understands, or doubt that they do. They will grok something, make some kind of meaning, any kind of meaning. If we have learned one thing about the mind it is that it will make meaning. Why do I have to be […]