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VIDEO: Greater Victoria master carver says Indigenous art a way to restore culture

Temosen (Charles) Elliot totem poles and other works are cherished worldwide

For internationally recognized master carver and lifelong artist, Temosen (Charles) Elliott, his art is a way of communicating with the public that First Nations Peoples are restoring their culture, once lost to colonialism.

A member of the T’sartlip First Nation, Elliott’s works are cherished in collections worldwide.

As a child he practiced art in many forms and when he attended T’sartlip Indian Day School, he won a drawing contest meant to advocate for awareness around tuberculosis.

It was through carving small pieces and drawing daily that he knew art would be a part of his life forever.

“Every evening in our family home, I’d wait until dishes were done and I’d sit down after dinner and draw and draw,” Elliott recalled.

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His work can today be found at the University of Victoria, the Saanich Peninsula Hospital, Butchart Gardens and many more places across B.C. and in private collections worldwide.

“When you’re doing the artwork, you’re just putting the words to images,” he said, explaining that his work stands as a silent ambassador for First Nations Peoples.

Elliott has also mentored many emerging artists, including his own children and grandchildren who he said will carry on Indigenous artistry as part of their family legacy.

“I want younger First Nations Peoples to pick it up and do it, because it’s like speaking your language and holding your culture in place,” he said. “Don’t be discouraged; if you are, keep going because there are teachers around like myself who want to share their knowledge.”

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