Receiving the honour in 2017, Danika Naccarella was the inaugural recipient of the Crabtree McLennan Emerging Artist Award in the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art program. The Award is presented to an emerging artist in honour of Emily Carr University Director, Aboriginal Programs, Brenda Crabtree and the late Bill McLennan, UBC Museum of Anthropology’s Curator Emeritus. Danika was recognized for artistic excellence in melding of classic northern Northwest Coast design with Nuxalk style, in particular for her work in traditional hand-poke tattooing and skin-stitch techniques.
We recently reached out to Danika to see what she’s up to now. Not one to stand still, this talented First Nations artist continues to work hard and extend her artistic ability with new art forms.
Following her studies at the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art, Danika now assists with art instruction to Kindergarten to Grade 12 Nuxalk Nation youth at Acwsalcta School in Bella Coola from where she also graduated.
When she’s not teaching, Danika is hard at work creating art in various forms including acrylic painting, digital art, jewellery, hand poke tattooing, regalia making, and carving – sometimes. Born and raised in Bella Coola, Danika and her fiancé recently purchased their first home off reserve in Hagensborg, BC where they work and live out of their cabin that serves as a studio space for Danika’s tattooing and a small carving shop for her fiancé.
When asked what inspires her artistry, Danika reflects on her peoples’ history, “My ancestors and those who came before me have inspired me to dedicate myself to the art form. Studying the old masterpieces has set a high standard for my own practice, the pieces we see in the museum collections really are masterpieces as the ones who created those pieces had the privilege of refining their skills that were passed down for many generations. My generation has to relearn everything that was taken away from us – we are reviving what was almost wiped out.”
Danika is hoping that her art work will inspire other young Northwest Coast artists to continue this art form and bring it even farther than where it is now, while staying true to the traditional form and learning the foundations that define the art form. “There are so many mediums of art that I want to be able to pass on to the generations after me. Not only is passing on knowledge important, it is also important to bring light to our small community, to let others know we are still here and thriving.”
During these challenging times as COVID-19 continues to impact our lives, Danika shares that her personal art practice did suffer a major setback. “During the beginning of the pandemic I was unable to practice hand poke tattooing – which is a major part of my practice as an artist. Commissions and larger pieces weren’t feasible to clients either due to costs – so I migrated my energy to small affordable handmade earrings. Now that our world is a lot different, many people are choosing to support locals, which is a beautiful thing. I always give back and support other artists and businesses as that helps our local economies and families.”
Since receiving the Crabtree McLennan award in 2017, Danika is excited to share that that her practice has flourished. “I am so honoured to be awarded this title, as a young female artist in a male dominated market, it has solidified my confidence in my art practice. Being the inaugural recipient of this title was unbelievable. To have both Bill McLennan & Brenda Crabtree there was such an honour.”