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Northern Arts Review: Explore the Land of Dreamers

I would like to describe the Muskwa-Kechika to you, dear reader, but in this case, seeing is better than reading

This week, I am featuring No Small Choices: Stories from the Muskwa-Kechika, an exhibition which is on display now at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery until Oct. 15.

The show includes photography by Ryan Dickie, a Dene digital storyteller, and Wayne Sawchuk, a logger turned conservationist; alongside antler carvings by Larry Warren, a former outfitter. This unlikely trio have united to raise awareness about the 4.4 million hectares of unspoiled wilderness known as the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area in Northern B.C.

I would like to describe the Muskwa-Kechika to you, dear reader, but in this case, seeing is better than reading.


Abovethestorm-RyanDickie
Above the Storm, by Ryan Dickie

The MK is a stunning expanse of mountain ranges, rivers, forests, lakes and meadows, where wild game is plentiful and undisturbed. It is the traditional territory of the Dene people, who have traversed, lived, and hunted on these lands for millennia. The MK is enormously important ecologically, and keeping it wild has been a joint effort by many parties, including industry, First Nations, outfitters and conservationists, as well as the artists themselves.

To learn more about the fight to preserve the MK, watch In the Land of Dreamers, a CBC documentary co-directed and co-produced by Ryan and Wayne respectively, available to stream now for free on CBC Gem. The title refers to the Dene people, the dreamers and holy men who recognized the significance of the land and marked it as dechin. In the film, Ryan describes dechin as, “Our holy ground, the place we go when times get hard.” It is a sacred place that must be preserved for those who come after us.


FlamingOak-LarryWarren
Flaming Oak, by Larry Warren

In No Small Choices, the nearly metaphysical beauty of the land is captured admirably by the two photographers. Their selected works offer us views of the MK from many angles, whether they focus on a single encounter or take on such macro perspectives that their subject becomes almost abstract. Taken together, the viewer is left with a sense of awe at the vastness and complexity of the land and its ecological rhythms.

Larry Warren, a former outfitter who ran a guiding operation in the area for decades, put his leather working skills to good use when he turned to antler carvings. His works are stunningly detailed and expertly carved sheds dropped by herds of deer, caribou, moose, and elk, and etched with the flora that sustains them. The carvings are an elegant embodiment of the reciprocal relationships between human, plant and animal.

If No Small Choices and In the Land of Dreamers have piqued your interest in the MK, you can book a horseback tour, guided by Wayne Sawchuk, to experience this rare and untamed landscape for yourself. If you aren’t able to go next year, you can spread the word about the importance of the MK to ensure it will be there for you and yours to explore in the future.


Do you have an artistic endeavour you would like to promote? Is there a topic you would like me to discuss? I would love to hear from you! Please email me at programs@dcartgallery.ca.