Aboriginal graffitis in Vancouver


Vancouver is not covered in tags still street art is present there. The City Hall has a project that enables graffiti-artists to paint a few authorized walls. In Vancouver, you find the same kind of graffitis as in other big cities but there are a few graffitis that stand out because they are directly influenced by art created by First Nations of the Pacific Coast of Canada. You can recognize the stylized patterns typical of indigenous art. This article features a few of those Vancouverite graffitis. Tangled figures and fantastic animals tell First Nations legends. You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.


The first photo shows a abandoned shop window. The graffiti depicts a bird. I would say that it is an eagle from its curved beak. The drawing style and the choice of colors (white, black and red) are characteristic of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest’s iconography. For them, the eagle represents power and wisdom.


indigenous graffiti showing a bird in Vancouver

Graffiti located at Broadway and Fraser Street


The left part and the right part of this other graffiti could represent the sun and the moon. The central part is truncated but you can recognize a fish. Its head is at the top and its tail at the bottom. I think it’s an orca because of its teeth. Native peoples see orca as the animal that reigns over the sea.



indigenous graffiti showing the sun, the moon and a fish in Vancouver



Graffiti located at Pacific Street and Seymour Street
photo Kyle Pearce (c) Creative Commons


The last graffiti which is situated under Granville Bridge is more difficult to decipher due to the tangle of the characters.
On the bottom right-hand corner, it is written “… and the raven brought the light into the world”. This sentence evokes a legend of the Haida people which tells that the raven has created the world but a dark world because it lacks light. Light belongs to an old man who keeps it locked up in a box. So the raven steals light to the old man and with this light he creates the sun, the moon and the stars.
We can see a big raven on the picture: its head is on the right and there is a bird’s foot at the bottom. However I am not able to find any trace of the sun. On the left there is a face that doesn’t look happy. Maybe it’s the old man, furious to have his light stolen?


indigenous graffiti showing the legend of the raven who creates the world and later the sun, the moon and the stars in Vancouver


Graffiti located under Granville Bridge at 4th Avenue


Don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have difficulty spotting the characters… or if you find the sun on the last picture.


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