Here's the drum's story.
The school in Kitwanga was recently sponsored by FNESC - Artists in Education (thanks!!) and the students made painted drums honouring their families and clans. Being a whitey without a family clan to represent, I lucked out and got my own blank drum when its owner stopped coming to class. (In case you haven't gathered, I hung around the school a lot during my visit, because that's where Mom works, and I like schools.)
I chose to paint Sisutl, the two-headed serpent in Haida lore, to honour its mythology and its relation to survival, power and duality. Listen to this:
"Tuxw'id (female warrior) dancers often incorporate Sisiutl in their performance, invoking Sisiutl to grant them Winalagalis (warrior spirit): invincibility and immunity from pain. They may be seemingly pulled underground by a Sisiutl, or demonstrate their power by summoning dantsikw (sisiutl) power boards to rise from the earth commemorating the supernatural canoe of Winalagalis (a copper Sisiutl canoe that can travel underground). Supernatural powers bestowed by Sisiutl might be theatrically demonstrated by 'miraculously' surviving burning alive, or being decapitated.
In the Hawinalal, to demonstrate invincibility & immunity from pain, dancers don sisiutl girdles, and are suspended from the rafters of the plank house by skewers pierced through their backs and thighs. Hawinalal dancers also cut themselves with a sisiutl knife. (Boas, "Social Organization...", p. 485)."
That's my jam, you know. Pain jam.
Making this drum was the first time I've explored Gitxsan art seriously, and putting it into practice was amazing! The focus on geometry and anatomy of solids, liquids and horizons, the surprising realism of a fish-eye effect... after this project, I found myself instinctively better with perspectives. Cool, right? Yes. Cool.
Speaking of perspectives and liquids: Before it was finished, the drum got damp and warped, and I couldn't paint on its wrinkled surface. So it stood in sad, unfinished rage on the back of a couch for a bit. Striking it made the sound of punching a bag of wet laundry. MAJESTIC! But weather changes, the sun will come out, and in summer, the drum will expand and tighten back by being set in the back of a car window.