Go behind the cedars at Tla-o-qui-aht Nation’s new naaʔuu experience

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For the Tla-o-qui-aht people on Vancouver Island, movement and dance has long been a way of carrying traditional stories through generations. Now, visitors to Tla-o-qui-aht ḥaḥuułi (Tofino) can experience this living, thriving culture via the ticketed event series naaʔuu [naa·ooh], presented at the Tla-o-qui-aht owned Best Western Tin Wis Resort in Tofino on six dates this March, 2023.

This is your opportunity to meet, witness and learn from the incredible artists, makers, storytellers and carvers of Tla-o-qui-aht, over a feast of traditional coastal cuisine. 

For Hjalmer Wenstob, naaʔuu co-producer and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation interdisciplinary artist, his journey as a carver began through dance: “I actually first started carving as I was learning my family dance, which came back to our family after being gone from our traditions for years.

"When dress rehearsal time came for the potlatch, the masks we were going to be performing with, dancing with, were made out of cardboard.” 

VIDEO: Behind the Cedars

watch the Tla-o-qui-aht artistic process unfold

Watch Meet the Artists; Come naaʔuu on YouTube.

“I remember coming home to my grandfather and being so upset that we were dancing with these cardboard masks, because the original masks had disappeared over time. So he said, get to work. 

“Within about a week, we carved eight Kingfisher masks out of cedar. The whole process wasn’t about carving, or making art. It was about making these objects that were going to come to life through dance.”

Tla-o-qui-aht Nation Tofino BC naauu Ben Giesbrecht
Photo: Jordyn Giesbrecht
Nuu-chah-nulth Artist Patrick Amos of the Mowachaht Band working on a cedar carving.

In an exceptional presentation of the deep history of the Tla-o-qui-aht People told through their own perspective and artistic interpretations, naaʔuu invites spectators to listen intently and form better relationships to the land they visit, and our inherent responsibilities to protect our cultures for future generations. 

This truly remarkable event, located within the breathtaking rainforest-covered territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, is a time-honoured tradition for ƛaɁuukwiatḥ. An invitation to slow down and immerse yourself in the teachings and stories of elders and knowledge keepers, it’s about good food bringing people together.


Take this as your invitation to join the feast, come naaʔuu

The event features a meal that honours traditional coastal cuisine prepared by Chef Ian Riddick, with support from his Heartwood Kitchen team and Tla-o-qui-aht food suppliers from across the region.

All of this sets the stage for a three-hour immersive experience that will leave you transformed.


 

 

Come together and feast, book your naaʔuu tickets now
 

 

 


“We don't have a word for art in our language; it was all interwoven. It was all a part of each other. So if it’s our language, if it’s our culture, our stories, our songs, our artwork—it’s all interconnected,” said Wenstob. 

A key part of the event is the captivating Tla-o-qui-aht Art Show, which will be happening within the naaʔuu event series. Guests will have the incredible opportunity to view and purchase work from Tla-o-qui-aht artists, makers, and carvers throughout the region. This is a chance for you to bring a piece of this remarkable experience home with you from wherever you come from around the world. 

“For a long time, I’ve been called an Indigenous artist, which I think is a little too broad. I’m a local artist. I’m an artist from a very particular place, with a very particular history,” said Wenstob, when asked about his work as an artist. 

Tla-o-qui-aht Nation Tofino BC naauu Ben Giesbrecht
Photo: Jordyn Giesbrecht
The tools that make it possible at carver Joe David’s workspace in Tla-o-qui-aht (Tofino).

“As a carver, the biggest thing to me is that it’s a connection. A connection to the past, to the present, and to the future. There are all these different roles that you take on as a carver, and it’s something I’m really honored to do for my community.”

Sculptures and masks carved from ancient red cedar have traditionally been a pivotal way to document historic events for Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. Animated through cultural song and dance, these masks have a deeply spiritual role in passing stories through generations. 

Nuu-chah-nulth Artist Patrick Amos of the Mowachaht Band, one of the featured artists on display at the Tla-o-qui-aht Art Show, says “I love making art because it’s our history. It’s our history that we are carving.” 

And this sentiment goes further than the art created and shared; it is also embodied through dance and movement. 

“Every family has certain dances. There’s families that have the sea serpent dance, and some from fire,” says Amos. 

This connective event’s highlight of the evening is a deeply immersive three-hour exhibition of Tla-o-qui-aht traditions featuring performative storytelling, dance, and song that invites visitors to connect with the Tla-o-qui-aht culture in a transformative and seldom experienced setting. 

Proceeds raised from ticket sales will continue to support Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks’ crucial work in restoring and protecting the nation’s lands, language, and culture for generations to come.

Tla-o-qui-aht Nation Tofino BC naauu Melissa Renwick
Photo: Melissa Renwick
Tla-o-qui-aht masks are not just art or artifacts, as Hjalmer Wenstob says. They are part of the dance.

Throughout the mesmerizing event of naaʔuu, locals and travelers alike will have the rare opportunity to observe and learn about Tla-o-qui-aht, immersing themselves in the deeply rooted principles of iisaak (respect) and hi-shuk-nish-tsa-waak (we are all one). 

Wenstob says, “When I get to make something for our community, that’s when I’m most excited.” 

And we certainly can’t wait to see what these incredible artists and storytellers have in store for visitors who will experience the remarkable event of naaʔuu.

When You Go

Purchase your tickets today, there are only a limited amount available for the 2023 spring event series.

Individual tickets for March 9 are now sold out! However, packaged hotel stay/dinner tickets are still available through these Tla-o—qui-aht Tribal Parks Allies: 

When you are purchasing naaʔuu tickets know that you are supporting Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks with an experience that will leave anyone with a Tla-o-qui-aht perspective on life and the lands they call home.

Read about how staying at the Tla-o-qui-aht owned Tin Wis Resort supports the nation’s path forward.

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