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Natural creativity

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (July 29/05) - Some artists from Fort Simpson, Ontario and the United States are aspiring to bring the Nahanni closer to Deh Cho residents.

Moving the natural wonder geographically is out of the question, but using artwork to immerse people in its magnificence is well within their means.

NNSL Photo

Artists Bill Hosford, foreground and Michael Blyth sit down to a meal in Dead Man's Valley.

Videographer Tracy Kovalench was among several painters, sculptors, musicians and photographers to canoe the Nahanni River July 4-17.

The collective - known as Nah a Dehe artists - are collaborating on a multi-media presentation to be exhibited at the Open Sky Festival next summer. They are also planning to launch a book based on the material they gathered during their two-week journey.

Kovalench, visiting Nahanni National Park Reserve for the first time, said she was astonished by the magnificence of the canyons, where the geological formations are "striped like a zebra."

"When you go through you're in total awe," she said.

"It was so emotional to be there. It was touching."

Painter Tonya Cazon also saw the Nahanni region for the first time after 10 years in the Deh Cho. It was the most beautiful place she's been to, and she has travelled all across Canada, she said.

"As soon as I got to where Prairie Creek enters the Nahanni, I just felt like I was home," said Cazon.

"There's just something magical about that place."

Lilac-coloured mountains and others with shades of blue rise from the landscape, she said, adding that she has already produced some water colours and pencil crayon images.

The group made the trek at a relatively relaxed pace, sometimes stopping in one place for a few days "to get a feel for the land," said Kovalench.

Entering Dead Man's Valley, a storied place, was particularly memorable, she noted.

"When you go into the valley you can feel the energy," she said, adding that some people describe it as the Shangri-La of the Nahanni. "Warm air breezes over you and there's a sweet smell, like cottonwood."

As much as they were captivated by their surroundings, the artists weren't immune to the challenges that other adventurers encounter along the way.

At the Splits, the last leg of the trip, they endured clouds of mosquitoes.

As well, their vessels overturned a few times. They lost one canoe at the Figure Eight rapids but later recovered it downstream.

Cazon said the trip helped her overcome her fear of water, especially the rapids.

"By the end of the trip I was riding the waves going, 'Yeehaw.'"