Harbours are gateways for Vancouver Island communities.
The Nanaimo Art Gallery’s latest exhibit Landfall and Departure: Prologue examines the Nanaimo harbour and its history from various perspectives. Prologue is the first half of the exhibit. The second half will open later this year.
“It’s about the harbour, and this one being the prologue refers a lot to histories of harbours and harbours from many points of view, because harbours are places of intersections,” said Jesse Birch, curator of the Nanaimo Art Gallery. “There are people and industries – resources come and go. Nanaimo’s harbour has been utilized in the past. Since coal mining, Nanaimo’s harbour has been used as a resource distribution hub, prior to that it was a Snuneymuxw fishing grounds.”
One item on display people will see when they walk into the exhibit is a map, from 1909, of the coal mining tunnels in Nanaimo’s harbour that spans from the No. 1 Mine, in south Nanaimo, to the Northfield Mine, in Departure Bay.
“Nanaimo’s harbour has transformed so many different times over its life through different forms of physical transformation, but also transformation of the uses of it,” said Birch. “Up until the early 20th century, to 1930. Nanaimo was known as Herring Town, because it was such a hub of herring distribution, primarily through Japanese fisheries.”
Birch said there were Japanese herring distributions and boat builders on the harbourfront and on Newcastle Island.
“With the internment of World War II that community was removed, unfortunately,” said Birch. “That is part of the history of Nanaimo harbour that not a lot of Nanaimoans know about, so I thought it would be interesting to put it out there as one of the examples of how much the harbour culturally and physically has changed.”
Birch said the exhibit goes from the local perspective to the national and then international perspective. It includes art work by artists Doug Allen, Michael Belmore, Stan Douglas, Elisa Ferrari, Emily Luce and Klehwetua Rod Sayers, Marina Roy and Graham Meisner, Allan Sekula and Noël Burch, Tommy Ting and Hajra Waheed.
Landfall and Departure, a two-part exhibit, is the third in a series that explores industries that helped form Vancouver Island communities. Prologues examines the Nanaimo harbour as a lace where goods, labour and stories were exchanged, according to the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s website. The exhibit features contemporary art, historical images from the Nanaimo Museum and audio recordings and documents from the Nanaimo Archives.
The first exhibit, Black Diamond Dust, was displayed in 2014 and examined coal mining. The second was Silva, displayed from 2015-16, with examined the forestry industry.
The Nanaimo Art Gallery created the book, Black Diamond Dust, to commemorate the first project. The book “responds to coal mining: an industry that formed and fragmented communities through economic development, racial serration, and labour inequality, while fuelling the modern world,” according to the cover description.
Black Diamond Dust is dedicated to Peter Culley, the late Nanaimo poet, and contains an introduction by Birch, poems, essays, photographs and illustrations about Nanaimo’s mining history.
The Nanaimo Art Gallery, located at 150 Commercial St., hosts Landfall and Departure: Prologue until March 25. Admission is by donation.
As part of the exhibit, on March 17 and 18 at 2 p.m. the gallery presents a sound walk with Elisa Ferrari. Participants will meet at Port Way in south Nanaimo. Participants will travel through urban environments while exploring the acoustic soundscape of the Nanaimo Harbour and shipping wharf. The sound walk is free but people must reserve their space by calling 250-754-1750.
For more information about the Nanaimo Art Gallery, please visit http://nanaimogallery.ca.