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Cree artist/musician lets work speak for him

Ed Peekeekoot takes part in exhibition at local gallery Jan. 20

Ed Peekeekoot is truly a man of few words.

He’s the type of guy who’d rather let his art do the talking.

As both an accomplished aboriginal artist and musician, Peekeekoot has been prolific since his days as a child in Saskatchewan.

His Cree roots are ever apparent in both disciplines, evidence of which will be on display during a dual exhibition with Ice Bear at the Eagle Feather Gallery in Victoria on Jan. 20.

“I love both arts equally,” Peekeekoot said. “The art and the music. The music you have the audience right in front of you. You have an immediate response whereas with the carving and all that, you have to wait a bit.”

Artistically, Peekeekoot’s work varies from acrylic and oil paintings to stone, soap stone, alabaster and marble sculptures. Aside from being shown at the Eagle Feather Gallery, some of his work is on display at the prestigious Thunderbird Gallery on Salt Spring Island.

Having spent his childhood as a member of the Ahtahkakoop Cree First Nation in a small village northwest of Prince Albert, Peekeekoot moved to the West Coast during his teens.

“When I was 16, I moved to B.C. with my mom and my stepdad,” he said. “My stepdad was already working in B.C. I met my wife in Clearwater when I was about 25 when I worked in a sawmill just a little bit outside of Clearwater.”

After about eight years at the sawmill, Peekeekoot followed his wife around the province for a bit, working as a freelance musician and artist. He said no matter where they went he was able to find work in the small communities around B.C.

“She wanted to move on so I decided to tag along out of curiousity,” he said. “And then I got a job at the 108 (Mile) Ranch. I played at the 108 Ranch there for bus tours for five years in the summertime. So I spent the summertime there and my wife was working and living in Victoria and she’d come and visit me on long weekends.”

He made the permanent move to Vancouver Island in the early 1990s, but still kept strumming his guitar and painting and carving. As a musician, Peekeekoot has released various CDs and twice been nominated for the B.C. Country Music Association Instrumentalist of the Year award. His Two Worlds EP was also nominated for EP of the year and his instrumental song, “Land of the Raven,” was used as the theme music for a film series called North American Indian Portraits.

But this is just the start of his accomplishments in music. He was also featured on a series film called Gentleman Cowboy of Honkytonk and recently appeared on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network series Beyond Words.

In May, Peekeekoot was selected by the National Campus and Community Radio Association to appear on the fifth Dig Your Roots aboriginal compilation CD.

With the trail of accolades left in his wake, one might think Peekeekoot was a tireless self-promoter out for fame and fortune.

“Fame and fortune, now that’s a cliché,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s not my goal to look for a reaction (with my work). I do it because I love it. I love both of them and I feel it really, really deep inside me. And when I finish a carving, it just makes me feel so good and hopefully people feel the same way and music is the same way.

“When I’m writing or composing a song, when it’s recorded, it’s a great feeling and then you hear it back in the studio. It’s just a deep feeling of inspiration. It’s kind of hard to describe really.”

Peekeekoot is currently working on various projects as an artist and working on the follow-up to his 2006 CD In the Key of Cree, recording some yet unheard tracks and also a few duets with his wife. Spending his life mainly as an artist, Peekeekoot said he’s grateful for the chance to share his work with others, even during the lackluster periods of inspiration that all artists go through.

“Yeah, it has its ups and downs,” he said. “It can be frustrating but I don’t really look at it that way, I just enjoy creating.”

Peekeekoot will be a part of a special presentation of contemporary Woodlands and Plains art and music by him and Ice Bear at the Eagle Feather Gallery, 904 Gordon St., Saturday, Jan. 20. The gallery will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. and a private reception will follow.

RSVP by e-mail to info@eaglefeathergallery.com or call 388-4330 to attend. To learn more about the gallery, go to http://www.eaglefeathergallery.com.

patrickb@vicnews.com

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