The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) has created an interactive web page to explain the stories behind the Unity Wall – the breakwater turned canvas filled with art by South Salish artists.
Located at the Breakwater District at Ogden Point near Victoria Cruise Ship Terminal, the GVHA sponsored the development of the wall in 2009. It’s now one of the largest murals in Canada. For the first phase of the wall, artists Butch Dick and Darlene Gait designed images representing a Lekwungen teachings about people as caretakers of the land and ocean.
“The web page is really demonstrating the importance of the Unity Wall to us as an organization and our guiding principles to First Nations relationships,” says GVHA communications director Brian Cant. “It’s a beautiful wall and we get to share it with the community and this just kind of enhances that.”
The second phase of the Unity Wall honours traditional lands of the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations as well as the “sacred relationship between the “land, the sea and Coast Salish peoples.” The wall includes a Lekwungen blessing describing the importance of the natural world.
The GVHA web page provides detailed images of the mural with buttons linking to more information on different portions of the mural. For example, one design shows a killer whale transforming into a mythical sea wolf. The murals description explains how a “pod or pack of sea wolves is said to have gone in many directions, establishing villages along the way.”
The third phase of the mural illustrates the signing of the Douglas Treaties and the founding of the City of Victoria and the Township of Esquimalt.
Cant says the mural has been hugely popular with tourists and locals alike, and a powerful way to introduce cruise ship passengers to the origins of the land they’re arriving at.
“Its probably one of the most high profile parts of what we’ve done down at the Breakwater District,” Cant says. “It’s a really cool project for us to have been apart of [and] we want to highlight that it’s there.”
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