Richard Hunt repainting his father’s totem-pole legacy

The artistic legacy of Henry Hunt will be coming full circle when his son, Richard, repaints a totem pole in Manitoba carved by the elder Hunt in 1971.

Henry Hunt died in 1985.

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Richard Hunt has been asked to refurbish the pole for next year’s 150th anniversary of Manitoba becoming Canada’s fifth province. He travelled to Winnipeg last week to take a look at the pole, which was a gift from B.C.

The work will be done next spring and should be completed within a week, he said.

“It’s too wet right now to paint it,” Richard said. “In the spring, when it dries out for a couple of weeks, I’m going to go back there.”

There are two figures on the six-metre pole — a kolus and a chief. A kolus is a baby thunderbird, which in this case represents Richard.

“My brother, Tony, was our thunderbird, the head of the clan, and I was given the immature thunderbird, the baby.”

He said the pole is in pretty good shape for its age, but it will have to be stripped because a previous repainting was done when the weather was too hot.

“So the paint never absorbed into the wood.”

The pole was made in Victoria and shipped east either by truck or train, Richard said.

He said his father’s poles have been worked on before by family members.

“My nephew just did one in Ottawa and my brother, Stan, did one in Palm Springs.”

The Palm Springs pole was created by both Henry and Richard for a private client.

Richard said it makes sense that relatives are involved in the restoration process.

“It’s actually good that they’re getting ahold of us now because before, they’d just get anybody to paint it,” he said. “For me, if they think about it, our family owns the intellectual copyright to our father’s work.

“It’s a piece of art, like a Michelangelo.”

Richard already knows how he will take on the task of restoring Manitoba totem, which won’t have to be taken down for the job.

After stripping the pole, he will apply two coats of white paint.

Next will be a coat of grey to provide a base where the red and green will be applied.

“It makes it more brilliant.”

Richard said that while it is likely his father used oil-based paint on the pole, “if I use an oil base, I’m going to have to be there for a long time because you’ve got to let that paint set.

“I’ll probably paint it with acrylics because the acrylics you get now are just as good, last just as long.”

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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