Remembering “Joe David: Spirit of the Mask”

Back in 1981 Kensington’s Founder and President Robert Lang produced and directed an intimate portrait of Nuu-chah-nulth artist, Joe David. Produced with a Canada Council grant, the film was shot over a year, resulting in a 24-minute documentary that was invited to festivals around North America and was broadcast on CBC.

Who is Joe David?

Working within the tradition of his people, Joe David has become one of the strong contemporary links in the preservation and reinvention of Northwest coast indigenous art. Robert Lang worked closely with David as he carved and finished a magnificent wolf headdress from a block of cedar to its ultimate use as a ceremonial mask worn by the artist himself in a haunting dance that concludes the documentary.

The film depicts a unique and passionate artist whose observations are inspiring and sometimes surprising… amidst the loneliness Joe David felt in his Catholic residential school, he also felt comfort – the effect of looking at the chapel’s religious icons was reminiscent of Nuu-chah-nulth clan figures. Today, with all the tragic stories emerging at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about the residential school experience, Joe’s childhood memory stands in counterpoint. This intimate portrait of a Native-American artist continues as relevant and thought-provoking as ever.

Let us know what you thought of the film.