EXHIBITION:Robert Barratt: New Works
Halibut was an important food source for the northern tribes, especially the Haida who did not have access to the Salmon rivers like the mainland tribes. This Halibut bowl has a sea eagle and a sea raven carved on the sides. These creatures are both supernatural beings and are generally depicted with the bodies of killer whales. The human face on the tail end of the bowl represents the spirit form of the halibut. All northern tribes believed that every creature had a human spirit form that was “dressed” in the skin of a bear, wolf, salmon, etc. Humans are the only ones whose skin matches their spirit form.
“The Halibut is, for lack of a better word, an ‘undignified’ looking fish with vacant looking eyes pushed over to one side of its face so it can look up from its bottom dwelling. Nevertheless, it is and always has been one of the most important food sources on the Northwest coast. So while it is fairly depicted with its odd looking face, it is graced with the formline detail of a Sea Eagle and a Sea Raven, both of which are the ocean kingdom version of their land/sky counterparts. The human spirit form of the Halibut is evident in the hump at the base of its tail. I love halibut so I have no problem spending the time that all the detail and inlay demand!”
– Robert Barratt