Framed Art Card - Saltwater Splendour (12" x 9")

Artist: Andy Everson

Deep under the ocean is a world we know very little about. There are fish and invertebrates that have yet to be seen by humans. There are things that are dark and scary and there are things that are simply beautiful. A panoply of colours are available for those fortunate enough to explore the depths. Whether you visit a coral reef or some pristine water off Vancouver Island, you are bound to encounter a saltwater splendour.

Tł̓a’xwsam or Yelloweye Rockfish, are commonly called “Pacific Red Snapper” in these waters. They certainly add colour and a little character to the underwater realm. They are a slow-growing and long-living species of fish that live up to 120 years of age and often live amongst the same rockpile their entire lives. They can grow up to a metre in length and weigh almost 50 pounds.

When a yelloweye rockfish is caught in deep water, the gas in its swim bladder quickly expands and forces the stomach to come out of its mouth and its eyes to protrude from its sockets. Many Kwakwaka’wakw believe that there is an inherent connection to the xwixwi dance and these traits of the “red snapper.” The xwixwi dancer wears a mask with a lolling tongue–representing its stomach–and protruding eyes. They shake scallop shell rattles, mimicking the violent thrashing of the rockfish’s tail. The xwixwi dance is especially important to me and my community in Comox as the dance originated amongst our people and was passed north as a marriage right to a number of different Kwakwaka’wakw families.

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