February 22, 2010

The origin of Haida manga

Pacific Notion

The convergence of B.C.'s Haida with Japan's manga

By Mark Medley
Japan, says the 55-year-old artist and activist from his home on Bowen Island in the Salish Sea, was a "place of safety and comfort and welcome for Haidas."

The connection with Japan deepened when Yahgulanaas guided visiting Japanese students on tours of the forests of Haida Gwaii, the Haida homeland. They introduced him to the term "manga," of which he says he knew nothing. After a 20-plus-year career as an activist--among other things, he was involved in logging protests on Haida Gwaii in the '80s and '90s--he turned his attention to pushing the boundaries of traditional Haida art, which he calls "fairly complex to the point of appearing to be abstract." These artistic experiments led him to develop a unique form he's dubbed "Haida manga," which blends the precision and rigour of Haida art with the whimsical nature of manga. This cultural mash-up is on display in his latest book, Red.

"Red becomes a real test of whether there is an interest, I think, in Canada, to explore the mythology of what is the Indian, in a populist form," he says.

Adapted from a Haida legend Yahgulanaas heard growing up, Red tells the story of a young man obsessed with revenge against the raiders who kidnapped his younger sister. More memorable than the story, however, is the art. Yahgulanaas blends these two distinct styles together into something wholly original.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

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