Norman Moyah: Portrait of an artist
By Pamela Green
with permission from
"When I'm dancing, my spirit takes me back in time" said artist Norman Moyah.
"A greater power takes over and the whole world goes away."
"There's just me and the drum. The people who inspire me the most are my ancestors and through them I have been lead back to the Stone Age. Their ability to survive for tens of thousands of years on this continent fascinates me and has been a major influence in my artistic expression."
Born on the Thunderchild Reserve, Moyah grew up experiencing the richness of his own Plains Cree culture and the timeless harmony between the people, land and animals.
In a struggle to find his real identity in the modern world, Moyah has come full circle back to his own roots, sacred traditions and true path as an artist.
As a working artist, he enjoys painting with acrylics, oil, tempra and watercolors using tools that include dry brushing, charcoal, graphite and powdered Mammoth bone.
Moyah has also looked to the ancient stone artifacts of the ancestors for inspiration in both his paintings and carvings of traditional ceremonial weapons.
A gifted craftsman of considerable range and talent, he is currently producing many examples of hand-made leather regalia and artifacts that include replicas of ancient tools made from natural materials and pigments.
A number of his pieces have been sought out by serious collectors from as far away as Texas, who appreciate the quality of craftsmanship.
Working with Stone Age techniques including flint-knapping (carving and painting with natural ochres), Moyah has created his own dance regalia.
"Natural materials are hard to find and time-consuming to make when it comes to producing traditional regalia," said Moyah.
"And as far as flint-knapping goes, the materials that are available to work on in Alberta and Saskatchewan come in two extremes; a very tough quartzite and the much softer obsidian or volcanic glass."
"Good quality flint is hard to obtain in this area and it's even harder to try and knapp stone points, cody knives and spear heads for the Atlatle (spear thrower) without the proper materials."
"There is a lot of fairly intricate technology that must be mastered when it comes to knocking off flakes from core material, and a special understanding of fracture mechanics."
"For the ancestors, mastery of [flint-knapping] could mean the difference between life and death for hunters trying to survive in a difficult environment."
As well as recently attending a flint-knapping seminar at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina, Moyah has also had a busy year working as artist-in-residence at the Barr Colony Heritage Cultural Centre in Lloydminster, teaching, and creating a number of pieces for two art shows. One show is currently touring Alberta in conjuction with the Edmonton Art Gallery and the Alberta Art Foundation.
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