Back to northern Canada – the Haida Gwaii


Ever on the look-out for Canadian outsider artists, I continued my search on a recent trip to Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) on the (very) North West coast of British Columbia.

I am the least likely person to have survived as an early pioneer, but I love Haida Gwaii.  I don’t like bugs and dirt, I couldn’t forage for my food, and I am terrified of bears. Really terrified. On this trip, my son kindly bought me a can of bear spray for our forays into the forest. Thankfully, we didn’t run into any bears, which was lucky since I have a broken ankle and couldn’t outrun a squirrel. But I digress.

I love the northern regions of Canada for its complete solitude. Eagles and ravens are as common as sparrows and the silence is broken only by the sound of the surf. The Islanders are off the grid – literally. The Haida are the indigenous people who have lived there for millennia. The more recent residents are there because they want to do things their own way. The northern tip of the island, where we stayed, refused electricity when it was offered. Surely the island had to be swarming with outsider artists?

I asked several residents about artists who might fit my description of “outsiders”. They looked puzzled because, they say, everyone is an artist in Haida Gwaii. In the long days of winter, they all retreat into their homes and create things: music, art, poetry. Strangely, this is the same response I got when I enquired about outsider artists in the northern Canadian province of Yukon.  Maybe my definition of outsiders should include everyone who lives above the 60th parallel?