to main navigation

to content

to area navigation

The Power of Giving

U’mista Cultural Centre, Alert Bay, British Columbia, Canada:
April 22 - August 28, 2011 Kunsthalle im Lipsiusbau, Dresden,
Germany: May 7 - August 21, 2011

When we hear the term „giving“, we usually associate it with a positive, happy, or surprising event, but not with power. What is the association between "the gift" or the act of “gift-giving” and power?

A unique exhibition project between the U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay, BC, Canada and the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (Dresden State Art Collections) in Dresden, Germany will examine this question extensively. Both institutions will exchange objects from their collections and present them in simultaneous exhibitions. The venues for the special exhibition “The Power of Giving” will be the U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay, BC, Canada and the Kunsthalle im Lipsiusbau, which is located in Dresden, Germany. The exhibition “The Power of Giving: Gifts in the Saxon Rulers’ Court in Dresden and the Kwakwaka’wakw Big House“ are on display from April 22nd in Alert Bay, B.C. Canada. In Dresden, the exhibition entitled “The Power of Giving: The Potlatch in the Kwakwaka’wakw Big House from the Canadian Northwest Coast” opened at May 7th

Despite being thousands of miles away, both exhibitions will maintain a close dialogue. The German Federal Cultural Foundation has generously agreed to fund this project.

A few U'mista Exhibits

  • - Bild öffnet sich in einer Vergrößerungsansicht.
  • - Bild öffnet sich in einer Vergrößerungsansicht.
  • - Bild öffnet sich in einer Vergrößerungsansicht.


A unique collection of stunning masks, vessels, and regalia from the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations of Canada’s Northwest Coast will be sent from Alert Bay, BC, to Dresden. Some of the approximately 50 artifacts are up to 300 years old. This will be the first time the majority of the masks will be collectively on display outside Canada. These remarkable objects are used in the ritual dances and rites of the Potlatch, a traditional ceremony marking political, economic, spiritual, and social matters for individuals, family units, and communities. The reason for holding a Potlatch could be, for instance, the birth of an oldest son. A central aspect of the Potlatch is the role of the gift. The giving of gifts honours guests for witnessing the events and transactions of the Potlatch, and, therefore validates a family’s claims.

Some Dresden Exhibits for Alert Bay

  • - Bild öffnet sich in einer Vergrößerungsansicht.
  • - Bild öffnet sich in einer Vergrößerungsansicht.
  • - Bild öffnet sich in einer Vergrößerungsansicht.
  • - Bild öffnet sich in einer Vergrößerungsansicht.
  • - Bild öffnet sich in einer Vergrößerungsansicht.
  • - Bild öffnet sich in einer Vergrößerungsansicht.