First Nations Art Award recipient profile – Latham Mack, Nuxalk carver 

Photo: Latham Mack, 2022 First Nations Art Award recipient

As a 2022 First Nations Art Award recipient, Latham Mack’s artistic journey is documented in a short film produced by BC Achievement. With an intent to preserve and share Latham’s Nuxalk culture while serving as inspiration for other emerging artists and students, the film tells a beautiful story. 

Leading the film’s narrative, Latham re-tells the tale of four brothers and how thunder came to be. “They went hunting mountain goats [when] it got dark on them on the ledge of a cliff, so they set up camp. During the night they woke to the sound of thunder. When they looked up to the sky [they saw] the thunder and in its hands, it held a crystal ball and every time the thunder shook the crystal ball lightning would flash. The youngest brother cut a hole in his blanket, and he watched the thunder dance on the mountain top. He returned to our community, shared the story with one of the carpenters, and they carved a mask. And that is how the Thunder came [to be].” 

Storytelling and tradition are an integral part of Latham’s upbringing, and their influence is evident in his carvings. Equally as influential was growing up in Bella Coola surrounded by artistic family members and attending Acwsalcta School, which exposed him to culture and art at a very young age.  

Latham learned carving from his late grandfather, hereditary chief Lawrence Mack. 

“My grandfather was carving masks for his up-and-coming potlatch and I’d go down after school every day and I’d watch him carve and see him removing this wood and see this figure coming to life. Then one day he finally said, ‘you come here every day you might as well start carving’ so he gave me a block of wood and I carved my first mask at the age of 13.”  

Latham’s dedication and commitment to his art training continued through his studies at the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art followed by an apprenticeship under Bob Dempsey. “He took me under his wing and started teaching me. He’s like a father figure to me.”  

And now, with years of carving experience to back him, up Latham is keen to keep the tradition alive. “Our ancestors never carved our masks to hang on the wall. Keeping the tradition alive I got my own kids now that I’m looking forward to passing down that knowledge for them to carry forward.” 

Watch the short films on each of the First Nations Art recipients on our YouTube channel and prepare to be inspired. 

The recipients of the 2023 Polygon Award in First Nations Art will be announced in October at and shared across all of our social media channels.

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