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Rande Cook

Culturally Modified

September 10 - October 10, 2020


Empty Gallery is pleased to present 'Culturally Modified', a solo exhibition by Rande Cook.

Rande Cook (Kwakwaka’wakw) is a multimedia artist born in 1977 in culture-rich Alert Bay. Surrounded by the beauty of the land and art, he found the passion of artistic creativity at an early age. Cook has studied under several master craftsmen to learn traditional jewelry and carving techniques, including master carver John Livingston. In 2015 and 2016, Rande Cook held the Audain Professorship of Contemporary Art Practice of the Pacific Northwest with the Visual Arts department at the University of Victoria. He is currently enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program at Uvic.

‘Culturally Modified’ runs from September 10 to October 10, 2020. Visit the gallery during regular hours or by appointment.


All ancient cultures tell a story about life, our relationship with the land, environment, and each other. The Kwakwaka’wakw have stories about Umetl, The Raven who had the ability to transform and carry messages between the spirit world and the life we live today.


In the beginning, it is said the world was in darkness. Metaphorically, I have taken this to mean we are in search of enlightenment. Umetl was the first mythical ancestor to pass on knowledge, nourishment, gratitude, medicine, harmony, ceremony, and the ability to give away materials. Through his many trials, Umetl left a message for the people; he created the laws of the universe and explained that what we take, we must give back—for Mother Earth is gentle and we are all guests living in a speck of time. As time has passed and we, as Indigenous peoples from around the world rise up, we are taking our voices back. Religion no longer has a hold on us and our cultures are growing stronger as our children have a voice.


This installation is about Umetl rising up again, restoring the balance that has been broken by governments who are signing agreements over resource extraction with corporations, contaminating the waters, the inequality being forced upon the minority races and sexes, the lack of support and protection for women and children, the LGBTQ community, BLM, ILM, and the many more who are suffering due to capitalistic power and gain.


The first ancestors of the Kwakwaka’wakw descended from the Heavens and built their first houses. These houses developed and became a place of passing knowledge. Indigenous governance grew as chiefs took on positions to maintain the land. In 2020, we, the Kwakwaka’wakw are still faced with the harsh reality of land extraction; our communities are still living in poverty and we are still fighting for a place within Reconciliation. Like all houses when they are faced with a collapsing roof, we rebuild, and we rebuild better and stronger. The time has come for the people to restore the balance; we are rising up. I am Namgis, I am proud, and I have a history that comes from this land, and this is Umetl, who has been here to guide us from our beginning and far into our future. It is time we rebuild ourselves and take on the roles of leadership to share in unity, love, and respect. Because if we don’t now, then when?

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