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11 Jun 2010

The Haida totem pole erected in Olympic Park

It has had pride of place on the forecourt of The Olympic Museum, surrounded by the eight majestic Thassos marble columns. It came from Canada last autumn, and its creator, Haida sculptor Jim Hart, put the final touches to it only a few hours before the preview of the Vancouver 2012 - Sustainable Development and Living Traditions exhibition.

This totem pole, an emblem of the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver and the education and culture programme implemented on this occasion, will not end its days in a warehouse. It will now stand proud not far from the fountain and pathway that winds it way from the quay up to the forecourt.

Made of red cedar wood, the totem pole left the island of Haida Gwaii in British Columbia, going through Vancouver, then arriving in Switzerland by air. Finished on 14 October 2009, it was erected at a ritual ceremony, in the presence of the artist and members of his community. The work makes reference to water, earth and air, and connects us with the spirit world. It expresses the desire of Jim Hart to make “outsiders” aware of the Haida culture, and can be considered as a symbol of welcome – a wonderful invitation to dialogue and sharing.

On the sculpted face are an eagle, a symbol respected highly by the Haida people, as it is capable of flying high and reaching other summits; a killer whale, the king of the seas, inspiring respect mixed with fear; a brown bear whose belly is symbolised by an opening evoking the possible return into the maternal womb, the search for security; and, at the bottom, a salmon, representing the cycle of life and recalling that this fish has always been an essential resource for the First Nations.

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