Tsonukwa, 1988 by Mark Henderson (1953-2016), Kwakwaka'wakw
by Mark Henderson (1953-2016), Kwakwaka'wakw
silkscreen print, edition 73/115
25.5" high x 20" wide
Mark Henderson was born in 1953 and is a member of the Wewaikum Bank in Campbell River. His father, the late Chief Sam Henderson, was a well known Kwakwaka’wakw carver. Born in Blunden Harbour, Sam Henderson was raised in the strict tradions of Kwakwaka’wakw culture. Mark’s mother, the late Mae Quocksister Henderson, was the eldest daughter of a high-ranking family of the Wewaikum Band. Mark’s parents were keen to pass on their cultural traditions to their children.
Mark says they were a major influence on his early artistic development. “they wanted me to be familiar with my cultural background, and taught me the legends, songs and dances that have been part of my family heritage for many generations. The traditional potlatch is still an important ceremony to the Kwakwaka’wakw people. I have been involved in many potlatches, from designing and painting the large dance screens and masks to performing the dances that belong to my family.”
Mark began painting traditional Kwakwaka’wakw designs at the age of eleven and received much encouragement from his father. He spent many hours in his father’s workshop watching him carve and paint. Under his guidance Mark learned the principles of Kwakwaka’wakw design. He also studied the work of other great Kwakwaka’wakw artists, including Henry Speck, Mungo Martin, and Willie Seaweed. Mark works mainly with acrylic paint on paper, then produces limited edition silkscreen prints from his original paintings. His work is influenced by contemporary events as well as by the old style Kwakwaka’wakw artists.
“Sometimes when I’m at a potlach I see a dance or a mask in the firelight that appeals to me and I create a painting based on that. I believe it is important to maintain traditional elements and color in my art, but I also like to experiment and develop my creative ideas.”
Mark has introduced landscape into his prints, placing traditional Kwakwaka’wakw figures in the background that features the unique west coast. These works are very complex, and are some of his favorite pieces. Mark has been developing themes that trace inspirations through a series of prints which are related in subject, color and content.
Mark passed away peacefully in Campbell River, B.C. in October 2016. His passing was a great loss to his family, and a great loss to the world of traditional Kwakwaka’wakw art.