Klewetua, Rodney Sayers, is a Hupacasath artist from Ahswinis, Port Alberni, British Columbia, and is a descendant of the Nuu Chah Nulth peoples.
Rodney received an associate's degree in Studio Arts from Capilano College in North Vancouver in 1994, and earned his BFA with Distinction from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 1997. He completed his MFA in 2000 from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where he studied jewellery and metals, woodworking, and cultural theory. While at NSCAD, he served as the Student Union President and sat on the Board of Governors, he earned the prestigious Joseph Beuys Memorial Scholarship, and presented one of his pieces to Governor General Adrienne Clarkson on behalf NSCAD University. His MFA thesis exhibition was included in the first annual Halifax International Biennial. In 2002 he was awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award of Excellence, in honour of the 75th anniversary of the Alberta College of Art and Design.
After completing his formal education, Rodney returned home to Ahswinis. His practice has focused on integrating his beliefs about language and tradition into his contemporary visual work. He has taken part in several solo and group exhibitions, and has been awarded grants by the Vancouver Foundation, the BC Arts Council, the First People's Heritage Council, and the Canada Council. His piece ‘Creation Myth’ was included in the 2002 book The Persistence of Craft by Paul Greenhaulgh. In addition, he has an exploratory collaborative practice, Search & Research, with his long-time partner Emily Luce.
Rodney has worked intensely with the elder fluent speakers of his community on preserving and revitalizing the Nuu Chah Nulth language. He has successfully completed more than ten language revitalization grants, a language fluency master-apprenticeship, and together with the fluent speakers, has completed ten Nuu Chah Nulth language projects including illustrations and translated text for several books, videos, and a calendar. His work with the elder fluent speakers and his study of the language have deeply influenced his work as a Nuu Chah Nulth artist.
In addition to a private practice that comprised of many returning patrons, Rodney has worked on several large-scale projects out of Port Alberni. He was the lead carver on the publicly carved Port Alberni welcome figures; he created three large installations for the Hupacasath House of Gathering, and presented a 9 foot carving to the Tseshaht First Nation on the occasion of their government house opening, and his carving work is represented in BC Hydro’s new green Port Alberni office building. He worked in collaboration with Hesquiat artist Tim Paul to create a major sculptural work for Vancouver Olympics, which was permanently installed at the Richmond speed skating oval in November of 2009, in time for the Winter Games.
Rod’s practice examines the role of traditional artwork in a contemporary world. He believes that for an art form to remain vibrant, it must evolve and adapt, but remain true to its origins.