Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas new graphic novel, War of the Blink, is based on an old but true story, and the author and artist says its re-crafting in this form was inspired by what he sees in the world today, and right here on Bowen Island.
“It’s a story of two communities meeting, one from what is now Canada, and the other from Haida Gwaii. The two communities have different languages and different cultures,” explains Yahgulanaas. “In the one community a young many suffering from an overdose of aggression and testosterone convinces someone of more influence to go to the other community and knock heads, and off they go. The story ends with a sort of duel that allows both communities to save face. In actual fact, these two particular communities continue to have a positive and enduring relationship.”
Yahgulanaas says that while the story is in part about conflict resolution (“there are better ways to solving a conflict than slaughtering one another,” he says) it is also about the wealth of knowledge that Canada has chosen to ignore.
“It is a tap on Canada’s shoulders, it is a critique that there is so much sophisticated problem solving readily available and it is being ignored,” he says. “Taxol, one of the key components in breast cancer treatment, it comes from a tree in my community. This is one example of that sophisticated knowledge. Conflict and the rules of engagement, and systems of resolving that conflict, are complex, and that’s what is pointed to in War of the Blink.”
Bowen Island does this as the First Nations history of the place is continuously dismissed.
“We keep hearing that this was just a stop-off place,” says Yahgulanaas. “But we know that human remains have been found by an archeologist, and removed. We ought not to sanitize Bowen Island and its relationship to the Skwxwú7mesh snichim speakers. If we are willing to engage in a relationship, we will tap into a treasure box of resources.”
Yahgulanaas first created War of the Blink as a mural, and it was displayed at the Vancouver Art Gallery. He is currently working on a mural for the Seattle Art Museum that will be displayed in 2018, he says that will eventually become a book as well.