This collection consists of two negative slides of Tlingit artist Clarissa Rizal’s (formerly Clarissa Hudson) paintings, one entitled The Katlian Robe and the other used as the cover image for the 2009 book Haa Leelk’w Has Aani Saax’u: Our Grandparents’ Names on the Land.
The Katlian Robe was originally commissioned by the Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) for the cover of the SHI sponsored book, which was edited by Richard and Nora Dauenhauer, Anóoshi Lingít Aaní Ká: Russians in Tlingit America, The Battles of Sitka 1802 and 1804. In Rizal’s own words, she describes the process and meaning behind creating this painting:
“In November 2004, Sealaska Heritage Institute commissioned me to create a book cover for their latest publication by Dick and Nora Dauenhauer; a book about the 1804 Tlingit and Russian battle in Sitka, Alaska, where the Tlingit attack was led by Chief Katlian. In this painting, I made an effort to put most of the suggestions made by the Dauenhauers and SHI into symbolized imagery on Katlian’s robe, while the other elements are visually portrayed outside of the robe.
There were several requests that Sealaska Heritage Institute and the Dauenhauers wanted portrayed in the book cover; included are: mountains, ocean, the Russian fort, Russian ships, an image of the Tlingit men preparing for battle by sitting in the freezing, early morning ocean, Chief Katlian's helmet, and Katlian wearing a woven robe. I was also asked to visually suggest a link between the present generations with their ancestors from the past. I designed the layout of the painting to accommodate the title of the book and the authors' names.
In October 2004, a 200-year anniversary potlatch was held commemorating this event, hosted by the Kiks.ádi in Sitka. SHI wanted to honor the sensitivity of the subject, event and the clan by not portraying the "battle" or any aspect of anticipating warfare on the book cover. The 200-year potlatch was a "healing" ceremony. To honor SHI's request, I did not include any indication of warfare (battle weaponry, etc.). In this painting, I portrayed Katlian as someone who was anticipating the battle; he stands in a "prepared" manner, concerned for his village, relatives, family and friends, He prepared himself through cleansing rituals, addressed the battle plan with his men, and worked towards a "balanced" and meditative mind, body, heart and spirit.
Katlian is wearing a Ravenstail robe I designed. Some of the woven elements are from an old robe portrayed in an early 1800s painting by a Russian artist; some of the design elements are the "mountains", "Russian ships", and the "men preparing themselves for battle" (Chilkat faces). The robe portrayed in this new painting is a "combination robe," a union of Ravenstail and Chilkat weaving techniques. Although this robe could have been woven shortly after the battle, or anytime between then and now, this "modern" robe portrays a physical documentation of the 1804 battle; in keeping to Tlingit tradition, it is a part of a history "written" in woven form.
Although Katlian's body faces the fort across the water, he makes direct eye contact with the person(s) who stand behind him, the warriors who were with him at the time of battle—and he’s making direct eye contact with people of present day who are looking at the painting, whether it be the image on the cover of the Dauenhauer's book, the original painting or print, or the image on this website—linking the past, present and future generations, crossing time and space.
The painting has somewhat of an “antique” feel to it, which is something that I had originally intended when I laid the first strokes of paint.”
The second painting, that used on the cover of Haa Leelk’w Has Aani Saax’u: Our Grandparents’ Names on the Land, is also included in this collection. More information about this painting is forthcoming. The painting is attributed as dating to circa 2007.
Source: Clarissa Rizal’s website, accessed in 2010.