"The Inviter"
Original acrylic 12" x 16" by Bill Holm © 1992
Collection of Bruce and Linda Colasurdo

A Tlingit village chief watches the approach of his invited guests, arriving by canoe. He is the custodian of noble emblems, the clan crests that attest to the aristocracy of his lineage. Chief among them is a painted spruce root hat, topped with a column of basketry cylinders supporting the carved figure of the fin of the Killer Whale. The hat painting depicts the whale itself, blow-hole represented by a human face with its body streaming back as the whale's breath. Clan crest hats are the royal crowns of Tlingit nobility, worn only on occasions of the greatest importance. In this way, the inviter honours his guests.

Over the chief's shoulders drapes a Chilkat robe. Even more abstractly stylized than the painting on the hat, a diving Killer Whale in broad, black formlines, enriched with yellow and blue detail, spreads across the back and over the wearer's shoulders. All along the coast, dancing nobles carry rattles shaped as a raven, carrying a mysterious assemblage of figures on its back. The inviter will dance on the shore in response to the ceremonial arrival of the visitors. A final, rich touch to his noble dress are the great shark-tooth earrings, said to have been worn only by chiefs.

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