Breakwater Mural I

In past few years around the Greater Victoria area there has been increasing recognition of First Nation’s geography and history with permanent markers. I have previously posted a series about cairns erected in the Municipality of Oak Bay (at the bottom of this linked post are links to all my posts about those markers). I did the Oak Bay posts because there is very little available on the internet about the different markers. An interesting blog about some of the ones in the City of Victoria is at this page. I have been compiling a map of such places as I blog about them, and have added this mural to the map which can be found here.

Today’s post is one of three that I will be making about the Ogden Point breakwater area – two on the mural and one for a nearby history kiosk. I took these pictures a few weeks ago when I photographed the other side of the breakwater, resulting in a long series of pictures featuring the granite blocks that make up its outer face. If you were paying close attention, you might have spotted a bit of the mural, the wolf motif, in this earlier post. Today’s new series concerns the painted inner breakwater face and information on nearby associated piers. More information about the history of the breakwater can be found in my first Ogden Point post. Unlike the Oak Bay markers, there is a lot of information about these murals on the web and I have provided a few links below that tell the story of the mural, the artists and their young apprentices. I will let those posts speak for themselves and just show you how it is turning out.

This is Phase I of The Land and Sea Mural and the information panel to go with it is located between the base of the breakwater and the Pacific Pilotage Authority dock where the pilot-boats tie up. Phase II is also complete (see my next post), and there are plans for three more phases (or so) to extend the mural the full 800m of the breakwater. Phase I was completed in 2009, Phase II in 2010. The project is also refered to as Unity Wall – a reference to unifying the Songhees and Esquimalt Straits Salish communities as well as other First Nations now resident in the Victoria area, and the settler communities too.

The design is by Esquimalt artist Darlene Gait in collaboration with Songhees carver Butch Dick. The painting was by youth resident in the area; mostly members of local aboriginal communities, but some from outside too. I have cropped the wolf motif for use in my blog design today – it is part of the Phase I theme and you can see where it changes in the bottom image off the stern of the pilot-boat which is where Phase II begins.

————-  Some Sources  ————-

video link in case your device does not display the video above properly

Na’Tsa’maht – Unity Wall Website – this is really one-stop shopping – great photos, artist profiles, stories, video links and so on.

Darlene Gait website

Butch Dick on the Songhees First Nation website

Press Announcement for Phase II

Facebook Page

Mural Phase I (from Na’Ts’maht site)

Mural Phase II (from Na’Ts’maht site)

Provincial Capital Commission Publication summarising this and similar projects in the Greater Victoria area.

21 thoughts on “Breakwater Mural I

  1. Wow, this is amazing that Victoria is doing this, simply amazing. Being a First Nations myself, I am actually left speechless yet, proud. Thank you very much for such a wonderful post, very thoughtful.


    • David! Thanks for the awesome comment. It makes it worthwhile having put the extra effort into this series. I really appreciate hearing from you about this.


    • Hi Laurie – thank you. I too was surprised by it – I had not been to Ogden Point for a couple of years and missed all news of it, even though I think this project was well covered locally.


  2. It’s striking to see the historical junk inserted between the lens and the mural.

    It’s a great public service to bring not just the pictures but the text from the display to people beyond Victoria who might never see them otherwise. Attention to context and background stories sets your blog apart from most other photography ones.


    • Hey CN – welcome to my blog, and thanks for the great comment. I view it a bit differently – what I see is a mural inserted between strands of historical junk.

      These posts are a departure from my recent ones which are more along the lines of “pretty pictures”, but a bit of a return to my blogging roots since I did the Oak Bay cairns as a very early project in this blog. I will probably be doing this occasionally from now own. The map I am building will I think in the long run be a very interesting document when it is more complete. I don’t have time to go too deeply into the context, but it is nice to point interested people to places where they can get more. Thanks again for your interest and supportive comments.


      • A purist might say a picture ought to stand on its own. And for a certain audience, that is correct. But notice how people crave context in museums and galleries — they stoop and squint to look at the labels, as if they want to know *for sure* that it’s an Emily Carr, or is actually 10,000 years old, before they themselves will know what to think about it. They are more interested sometimes in the labels than the art or the object! So it’s refreshingly down to earth to have photos and text that explicitly aim to communicate facts, as well as beautiful images for the other side of the brain.

        The map is great, by the way.


      • Thanks again. I agree that there is an audience for factual posts that are also well illustrated. I prefer to ‘show’ than to ‘say’ when I can (a lesson drilled into me by a creative writing teacher the one and only time I took, and nearly failed, a writing course). To show what i mean rather than say what I mean can be very much helped by pictures, and a good thing too since this is mostly a photo blog.

        Give me a few years and perhaps that map will have a lot of dots on it. Maybe I need to be more systematic and seek places out and present them every wednesday, or every second week, or something. But, that is too much like work, and not so much like fun, which is what I aim to have when blogging.


  3. We must have stood in the same places at different times to photograph. These photographs are good indeed especially as they convey the story you are telling very well. A pleasure to peruse, especially since I so far had not taken the time to read all the information of which you included the images.


    • Hi Joseph – I am glad it works for you as someone that has been down there. I think it is good to let a wider audience know about this kind of thing as well, there is something very positive about it that is not newsworthy, so often public perceptions are slanted by the political fighting that is also going on.


  4. It’s wonderful to know that there are some cities that have the resources to dedicate to such a great public arts project like this. The area is rich with history and it’s nice that there is this forum to acknowledge it. I also like the documentary style of photography here. Nice work.


    • Hi Ken – I saw your recent post assuming that Eastman Kodak would no longer be supporting the arts in your community. Though Kodak had a good run, it does suggest that public bodies should be very much involved in this kind of thing as well – if only taxpayers would see it that way too. In this case, I believe that the Harbours Authority is heavily responsible – they are a federal organisation. I expect there was also provincial and municipal funds involved, or if there has not been that there will be as the project continues. Although things are getting tighter financially.


    • Hi Sally – thanks for your comment. I agree it is helping to keep stories alive. In one of the videos the elders hope that it keeps it alive in their own communities as well as educating the rest of us. It is very difficult to keep a small culture going in this modern world and every bit helps.


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