The restoration of West Vancouver’s most iconic piece of Indigenous art has been unveilved.
After a thorough sanding, shaping, washing and painting, the Welcome Figure at Ambleside Beach stands free once more, as scaffolding around the totem pole has been removed for the first time since the work began in March.
Now, the 16-foot figure stands refreshed to its former glory at the hands of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) master carver and Elder, Sequiliem (Stan Joseph), who first created the artwork in 2001 as a gift to the District of West Vancouver.
Most of the work was completed by Aug. 31 – painting the grey base with anti-graffiti paint is all that remains. A ceremony to celebrate the restoration was planned but has been put on hold because Joseph is unwell.
“We are waiting for him to be able to attend,” said Carrie Gadsby, spokesperson for West Vancouver District.
After initially being approached by a district committee for a welcome figure more than two decades ago, Joseph spent two months working on the pole, carefully carving details from a 1,200-year-old log of western red cedar from Hollyburn Mountain.
Joesph said that he knew almost immediately that the figure would be a grandmother. “Grandmothers are the most welcoming of people,” he told the North Shore News in March.
Initially, the carving drew shocked reactions from locals, in the Squamish community and West Vancouver council alike, because female totems were almost never seen. But for Joseph – who reflected on his own memories of his grandmother always greeting him at her home with tea and biscuits – he couldn’t imagine a more welcoming figure.