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Notes on Haida Manga
Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
The comics format allows me to recombine simple It is imperative that Haida manga incorporate
iconic forms to develop complex meanings—and contemporary social issues, that it speak to other
instant access to readers drifting in time and space. I people’s needs rather than merely to “mine.” Many
was drawn to comics as a way of talking about complex of us are still stuck in the old game, the wooden
things such as relationships between indigenous peo- Indian, the abandoned village, the romantic image of
ples and settler society. the vanishing people. There is a political market for
I found manga attractive because it is not part of the that myth. But we’re here, alive if not always market-
settler tradition of North America (like Archie or Marvel ready. The market value always depends on what is
comics, for example) insofar as manga has roots in the being sold. I don’t like the Cain and Abel episode
North Pacific, as does Haida art. where the mythic kills the living. But these days I am
Deconstruct the box Extract a meaning Any kind of meaning As long as it feels relevant
In colonial society a small space is reserved for the discovering an appetite for exploring the new, find-
indigenous person: a space defined as spiritual and sacred, ing new relationships—new types of relationships—
because those qualities are not seen to have much power and that is where the “practice” of Haida manga has
investedinthem:wecanbesacred,wecanbespiritual,we taken me.
can be shamanic, we can be artists. But the relationship The comics form encourages me to extract meaning
between indigenous and colonial society is filled with a lot and form where I find it, in the indigenous and the set-
of fear most of the time. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau tler cultures, and to flip them upside down, reverse
explained the difference between U.S. and Canadian pol- them, recombine them, to allow new meaning to
icies toward indigenous peoples as “you ...murdered emerge in a renewed form.
them. We starved them to death.”
From the “Flesh Tones” series Bone Box (detail) From the “Postcard” series
Page 54 G E I S T 70 Fall 2008
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