Sonny Assu: A Selective History

(This is third of #LitFest2019 features on writers attending the Galiano Literary Festival February 22-24 on Galiano Island. Tickets on sale now (250) 539-3340 or

Sonny Assu is a Ligwilda’xw Kwakwaka’wakw contemporary artist and subject of the new art book Sonny Assu: A Selective History. Through large-scale installation, sculpture, photography, printmaking, and painting, Sonny Assu merges the aesthetics of Indigenous iconography with a pop-art sensibility.

The book published by Heritage House is “A stunning retrospective highlighting the playfulness, power, and subversive spirit of Northwest Coast Indigenous artist Sonny Assu.”

Through analytical essays and personal narratives, Candice Hopkins, Marianne Nicolson, Richard Van Camp, and Ellyn Walker provide brilliant commentary on Assu’s practice, its meaning in the context of contemporary art, and its wider significance in the struggle for Indigenous cultural and political autonomy.

Exploring themes of Indigenous rights, consumerism, branding, humor, and the ways in which history informs contemporary ideas and identities, Sonny Assu: A Selective History is the first major full-scale book to pay tribute to this important, prolific, and vibrant figure in the contemporary art world. 

A work of Assu spoofing the Coca-Cola logo and replacing it by the words “Enjoy Coast-Salish Territory” is in the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, and he also has works in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada.

KK – What were you like at school?

SA – In high school? I guess I was pretty outgoing.

Sonny Assu Interventions

KK – Were you good at art?

SA – I was the best at art. Ask anyone. They’ll tell you that I was the best. That I am the best. The best at arting. Ha ha, just channelling the cheeto south of the boarder.

KK – What artistic pilgrimages have you gone on?

SA – None specifically. But when I’m in cities with institutions that have large anthropological Northwest Coast Art Collections, I like to visit with my ancestors.

KK – Do you Google yourself?

SA – No. I use Duck Duck Go, that way google can’t track all the ways I google myself.

KK – What is the most unethical practice in the art world?

SA – Toxic masculinity.

Sonny Assu Interventions

KK – What are common traps for aspiring artists?

SA – Not speaking from the heart or your passion.

KK – Does a big ego help or hurt artists?

SA – Both, depends on how you embrace and utilize your ego. A healthy ego can be a good way to protect you and what your work stands for.

KK – Artists are often associated with loner tendencies is there any truth to that?

SA – Depends on the person, I suppose. There are times when I prefer to work alone, others in the presence of others and times when I want to collaborate. I think we need to do away with the creative-genius-loner trope.

Sonny Assu Interventions

KK – Do you think artists have a normal life like others?

SA – What is normal? I like to binge watch shit on Netflix just like anyone else.

KK – What was the best money you ever spent as an artist?

SA – Quality art supplies, books, music and good speakers.

KK – What does artistic success look like to you?

SA – Being true to yourself and inspiring others.

KK – What’s the best way to market your work?

SA – Getting out there, applying for shows at artist run or community/civic galleries. Build your audience and your CV. Developing a strong and health online presence that isn’t focused on social media.

KK – What are the ethics of art involving historical figures?

SA – What are the ethics of forgetting what they stood for or against?

KK – If you weren’t an artist, what would you do for work?

SA – I hope it would be something somewhat creative.


Galiano Literary 2019 is February 22-24. Buy your tickets today by contacting (250) 539-3340 or


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s