The Construction Foundation of BC’s (CFBC) Catalyst, Indigenous Communities, Dean Heron spoke with Northwest Coast artist Danika Naccarella earlier this year as part of the CFBC’s 2020 Indigenous Skills Showcase. Descending from Nuxalk & Gwa’sala-Nakwaxda’xw ancestry, Danika, a young and emerging artist from Bella Coola, shared her education and experiences leading up to her current positions as both a teacher and an artist.
Culture is very strong in the Bella Coola Valley; the Nuxalk Nation strives on teaching and reviving traditional ways of life. Danika is now playing a role in that revival through her traditional tattooing practice in the Nuxalk community. She is dedicated to bringing strength to indigenous identity.
Danika began her art practice in the seventh grade when she moved to Bella Coola in 2009. She attended Acwsalcta School for her senior years of high school and had the opportunity to create and learn Nuxalk art, culture and language. She began to dedicate her spare time to painting Nuxalk designs drawn by her art teachers. Eventually, they encouraged her to create her own designs, paving the way for her to increase her knowledge of Northwest Coast art forms through books and museum research. Following graduation of high school, Danika enrolled in the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art in Terrace, B.C.
While attending Freda Diesing School, Danika was instructed and mentored by artists that included Stan Bevan, Ken McNeil, Dean Heron, and Dempsey Bob. She learned the basics of Northwest Coast 2D form line drawing, knife making, and basic wood carving in her first year, which gave her a solid foundation for her artwork. In her second year of the art program, Danika and her peers began more complex studies and projects such as bentwood box designs and crest mask carving. She completed the Freda Diesing Diploma program and returned home to her community where she became the Nuxalk art teacher’s assistant.
In the summer of 2017, Danika was accepted into the Earthline Tattoo Training Residency, where participants trained to become qualified cultural tattoo practitioners. She also studied and learned traditional hand poke and skin stitch tattooing.
Danika is currently working at Acwsalcta School as a teaching artist, where she lends her expertise to the school’s art curriculum. She is also working on larger mural projects around the school that involves her student’s participation. The projects Danika is working on bring awareness to suicide prevention using Nuxalk traditional designs and many other topics. While Danika continues to work within the community, she also creates her own paintings and carvings and hopes to begin expanding her art practice by working with various artists and experimenting with new mediums.
Watch Danika’s full interview with Dean Heron by clicking HERE.