University of Victoria staff were thrilled to recover a valuable piece of First Nations art stolen from the campus’s Fraser building June 13.
“We’re very happy and thankful to local police,” said Mary Jo Hughes, on hand to receive the recovered sculpture from Oak Bay Police Chief Andy Brinton Monday morning.
Oak Bay and Saanich police were investigating after the work was discovered missing from a June 13 theft. A vending machine and a few lockers were broken into and the artwork was stolen.
Friday evening, June 24, Victoria Police responded to a report from a staff member at Cowichan Trading Company, downtown on Government Street, that they had found the artwork, Brinton said.
An unknown person, believed to be a man and dressed all in black, approached the store and tossed a large object, wrapped in blankets, at the door.
Carved old growth red cedar with inlaid abalone, Sul-Sultan was created by Tsartlip Coast Salish artist Temoseng Charles Elliott in 1995-96. The work, depicting a cedar spindle whorl with central human figure flanked by two wolf figures and a frog at lower centre area, was commission by and is owned by the Faculty of Law.
The whorl sits in a painted carved stand and the overall value is estimated at $10,000, police said.
The piece was commissioned to recognize UVic’s place on the ancient First Nations land and to honour both the Western and Aboriginal law traditions taught in UVic’s law school, and the respect the indigenous and non-indigenous people have for one another, said Heather Raven, a UVic law professor who was involved in original commissioning.
“It really has much bigger significance,” noted Hughes, who upon hearing of the theft had called local auction houses and stores to alert them in case someone tried to sell it.
The sculpture appeared in good condition with minimal damage to a hook on the back, police said.
The initial theft was a joint investigation between the Oak Bay Police and Saanich Police as the University of Victoria campus is situated within both municipalities, said
A/Sgt. Jereme Leslie of Saanich Police Department.
Police ask anyone in the area between 5:30 p.m. June 12 and 5:30 a.m. June 13 who saw anything suspicious, or who has more information about the incident, to call Saanich Police at 250-475-4321, Oak Bay Police at 250-592-2424 or Crimestoppers at 1- 800-222-TIPS (8477).