[Series] Review by the Thursdays Writing Collective: 2016 Vancouver Book Award winner “Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Unceded Territories” (Figure 1 Publishing and the Museum of Anthropology at UBC)

uncededterritoriesLawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Unceded Territories by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Karen Duffek and Tania Willard. Published by Figure 1 Publishing and the Museum of Anthropology at UBC

Reviewed by various members of the Thursdays Writing Collective

To date, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Unceded Territories by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Karen Duffek and Tania Willard was the very first art book our collective has responded to. As a group, we had a lot to thing about and discuss regarding Laurence Paul Yuxweluptun’s provocative and eye-cathing artworks, and about Indigenous rights in the unceded territory known as Vancouver. Artwork and Indigenous justice are valued within the Downtown Eastside, so this book prompted much discussion.

Together, we read quotes from Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun’s artist statement and looked at his paintings. Some quotes we focused on were: “Your back rent is due, British Columbia…” and “I’m looking at global issues … the one percent of the planet that tells the rest of the world what to do … [they] want to destroy whatever they want and take whatever they want. British Petroleum (BP) is an example.

We discussed how might British Columbia pay up? How might government officials and/or greater BC society pay some form of rent to Coast Salish Peoples? We also discussed what – on these unceded lands – most needs protection? What needs our love, respect and protection?

The three paintings that most captured our attention were: “Fucking Creeps They’re Environmental Terrorists” (2013), “Christy Clark and the Kinder Morgan Go-Go Girls” (2015), “Red Man Watching White Man Trying to Fix Hole in the Sky” (1990), and “Killer Whale has a Vision and Comes to Talk with me about Proximological Encroachments of Civilizations in the Oceans” (2010).

The following reflects some of our discussion quotes while looking at Unceded Territories:

There are some people who believe that global warming is just a big scam. It is fortunate that governments might actually listen to what First Nations people are saying. [We need] jobs that afford us the ability to live well so that we too can have the luxury to become part of the solution to global warming.

– Cindy McBride

Lawrence Paul captures the present and future by going into the past to reveal the suffering of the Coast Salish People on the Unceded Territories through his creative artistic talents and his paintings.  His talent shines through in the beauty of his paintings, drawing me into his imagination, taking me into the journey of the unknown, the suffering of the past, the reconciliation of today and a future of unity.  Great work, Lawrence Paul.

– Ghia Aweida

Poetic response to “Killer Whale has a Vision and Comes to Talk with me about Proximological Encroachments of Civilizations in the Oceans” and “Red Man Watching White Man Trying to Fix Hole in they Sky”

—the sky is blue
—these are Not differences
—the light in the piece is not defined
—the light in Killer Whale comes from a sun gone nova

Paper clips, crayons and Lego.

Oil paints and egg tempura.

Exploding sun.  Transcendent sky.

Shape. Texture. Colour.

Why is the artist fragmented?

Torn apart? Sheltering a pile of

Kaleidoscopic Patterns.

This is my shape!

This are my forms!

My colours.

Get Over It!

– James Witwicki

Response to “Killer Whale has a Vision and Comes to Talk with me about Proximological Encroachments of Civilizations in the Oceans”

i chose to go beyond the dichotomy of ‘race’ and nature. into a global event happening between homo sapiens and the rest of the natural world. which, i think, is not that different from lawrence paul’s vision. the painting is rich with symbolism, layers of meaning upon meaning. is the blood dripping from orca into the ocean? are there feathers dripping with blood? is the orca, and the feather bleeding into the sea? yes, a visceral yes chants my body. and the sun, a flower bursting it’s petals to rain down on the earth and her beings.
the thick clouds, three layers, each resting on a flat surface, a line. thick blobs of whipped cream, shaving cream, dream whip clouds. like boulders in the sky. why? what does this mean?

is there meaning? or is it just because they came out that way. from his mind/thoughts and onto the canvas, no intermediate thinking. and the blood spreading across the purple whine sea. the homo sapiens stands on shore, a bright mechanical man in rich colours. behind him are the mountains, colourful boulders, each boulder with it’s own pattern. is there meaning? and the homo sapiens head is fish bird like skeletal. no fill in colours. skeleton head with the sky blue showing between the bones. a prophecy?

what do these patterns mean. is their some aboriginal short hand going on here? the orca is so small in comparison to the homo sapiens. and he is so large when compared with the mountains. and i think that perspective has nothing to do with this. is this how homo sapiens views himself?

since lawrence paul has named his work i need to figure out what he is saying. especially since one word is a fusion created by him. so has distinct meaning. so i checked out these words. proximal is something situated nearer the body or the point of attachment. in geology it is relating to an area close to a centre of a geographical process. ology is a subject of study, a branch of knowledge. and oxford says it informally and humorously used. i beg to differ. so i choose the meanings that, to my mind, approximate the closest to what the artist is saying. proximal is something situated to a centre of geological process. thi studied by many disciplines, philosophies, historians and other shamans. encroachment is intrusion onto territory, rights. and this is what i am understanding lawrence paul’s words to mean…

whale bleeds from his polluted territory, polluted by humans. the structure of the oceans altered, because of their proximity to pollution. nay, the pollution is within ocean. and the geology of the ocean is changing. how can it not. i like this painting because of it’s rich meaning. meaning that i have made for myself, which is not necessarily what the artist means. i love the name he gives his work, the rich language, the density of it is consistent with his painting. the symbols in both art forms complement and enhance each other.

thank you lawrence paul and karen duffnek and tania willard

– Karenza T. Wall


Thursdays Writing Collective member Ghia Aweida

Thursdays Writing Collective

Thursdays Writing Collective runs free, drop-in creative writing classes at Carnegie Community Centre for members of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, an area challenged by poverty-related issues and beloved by residents for its optimism, activism and creativity.

Since the Collective’s inception in 2008, more than 150 writers ranging in age from 18-86 years old have participated in writing sessions, events and festivals including the Heart of the City, Spirit Rising, Candahar Art Bar at the Cultural Olympiad, Word on the Street, V125 Poetry Conference, the Memory Festival and numerous artistic collaborations with diverse literary communities, including UBC Law, Music and Performance students.

The Collective has published seven chapbook anthologies with the support of Canada Council, City of Vancouver, SFU and Carnegie Community Centre. 

Free Event: An evening with Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun

Thursday, October 13, 2016
6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
CBC Studio 700

Come for a special event celebrating Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Unceded Territories, winner of the 2016 City of Vancouver Book Award.

Acclaimed artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun discusses this provocative and award-winning chronicle of his artwork as an expression of Indigenous rights in the unceded territory known as Vancouver.



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