Project Description

Bear Mother Mask, by Gerry Sheena

Bear symbolizes strength, respect, strong will and nourishing. It is said Bear has a strong connection with humans. Bear has humankind qualities, e.g. physical characteristics like the ability to stand on two legs and nurturing young. Old stories say Bear could talk, used their claws like hands and in hunt if you’d skin Bear it would exactly look like a human.

More stories circulate about the connection. There is a legend about a First Nations chief’s daughter who marries Bear. The princess even gives birth to twin cubs and is known as Bear Mother. The story goes like this.

A boy, Kiihlxaan, and a girl, Amgiidahl, grow up together and fall in love. Amgiidahl is the daughter of the chief and Kiihlxaan is the son of common people in the village. Everyone is against them. They are forbidden to be together and to marry. So, they run away to live together in the forest. They find a place by the river under a big spruce tree and live there for a while. Then winter comes – heavy storms and cold nights. They decide to return to the village. Amgiidahl hesitates in fear of the judgement and non-acceptance of her family and the people of the village. Therefor they decide Kiihlxaan walks to the village for help and Amgiidahl will wait for him in their shelter under the spruce tree by the river. Kiihlxaan meets with his family and although they still do not accept their love, the village decides to retrieve Amgiidahl. But she is nowhere to be found.

Years go by. Kiihlxaan can’t let go of his love. With the help of a shaman, Kiihlxaan eventually discovers she’s been kidnapped by Bear. Bear married her and she gave birth to two cubs. When he finds where they live, he travels to bring her back. They return together to the village. But Amgiidahl is unhappy. She is sad about her two sons, she had to leave behind. She asks Kiihlxaan to get her boys from Bear. She teaches Kiihlxaan a song. This is the song Bear sang to her when she was sad. When Kiihlxaan sings it to Bear his strong will fades and he cannot refuse Kiihlxaan anything. This way he can take the two boys back to her. And so it happened.
One of the boys is more like his mother, like a human, but the other has bear traits like his father. The more human boy stays in the village with his mother and Kiihlxaan. Eventually he marries and has children of his own (introducing Bear crest to the people of the village). The other boy goes back to the forest to live with his father. After all the trouble and turmoil, Kiihlxaan, and Amgiidahl finally get their family’s blessing to marry. They live happily together for the rest of their lives.

The story emphasizes the close relationship between Bears and humans. In general, you can say the feeling of kinship makes Bear a link between human and animal kingdom (nature).

For us this story is about the power of love. Love is above judgement of others – above difference in classes or social ranking. Love is unconditional. Like when Bear hears the song he sang for his true love, he cares so much he lets go. Like when Kiihlxaan keeps searching to be with his true love. Like when Kiihlxaan finally finds Amgiidahl and her two boys, he accepts them as they are. Like when one of the boys choses to go back to the forest, Amgiidahl lets him go.

So, give love and be loved, unconditionally. Sometimes to be together. Sometimes to let go.

Specifications
Medium Sculpture
Year 2019
Dimension (h-w-d) 36 – 40 – 33 cm
Material Red Cedar, acrylic paint, abalone, horse hair
Serial number Original one of a kind hand carved
  • Interior art advice

  • Art delivery service

  • Preview at your location (2 weeks)

  • Installation / placement service

Interested in this piece?

About the artist

Gerry Sheena (1964) was born in Merritt, British Columbia, Canada. He is a member of the Interior Salish Nation which inhabits the southern region of the province of British Columbia. Gerry takes the Bear as his family crest symbol. Bear is one of the most prevalent family crest figures. It is symbolic of strength, motherhood, and a guardian figure.

More about this artist
Carl Stromquist

More work from this artist