NIOSI, Goody

Author Tags: Art, Forestry, Local History

Born in Karlsruhe, Germany in 1949, Goody Niosi immigrated to Canada at age five and grew up in Ontario. She worked as a film editor in Vancouver and Toronto until turning to writing her first book, Magnificently Unrepentant, a biography of Merve Wilkinson, at age 49 [See review below.] She combined 17 profiles of recipients of the Order of British Columbia, including Wilkinson, for her second book, Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives (Heritage 2002 $18.95). They also include Rick Hansen, Richard Hunt, Takao Tanabe, Robert Bateman, Grace Elliott-Nielsen, Mel Cooper, Hilda Gregory, Tim Frick, Dr. Roger Tonkin, Geraldine Braak, Dr. Leonel Perra, Juan Acosta, Dr. Michael O'Shaughnessy, Ross Purse, Dr. Roger Hayward Rogers and Ric Careless. With photographer Terry Patterson she later published Nanaimo: Rising Tides, Rising Fortunes (Heritage, 2004). Her illustrated celebration of one couple's compatible lives on Vancouver Island is The Romance Continues: The Art and Gardens of Grant Leier and Nixie Barton (Touchwood, 2005).

Born in England, raised in Portugal, Ken Kirkby was transformed as an artist when he lived off the land with the Inuit for four years. Goody Niosi’s Ken Kirby: A Painter’s Quest for Canada (Libros Libertad $27.95) traces Kirkby’s evolution and his successful, ten-year-long completion of his masterwork Isumataq, unveiled as a 25-foot model in Parliament in 1992. The original is 152’ long and 12’ high. Isumataq is an Inuit word meaning, “An object in the presence of which wisdom might show itself,” and refers to the man-like monuments of stone called Inuksuit that Inuit have erected as guides and markers of good hunting and fishing. 978-0-9810735-7-6


Magnificently Unrepentant (Heritage, 2001)
Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives (Heritage 2002)
Nanaimo: The Harbour City (Heritage, 2004)
The Romance Continues: The Art and Gardens of Grant Leier and Nixie Barton (Touch Wood, 2005)
Ken Kirkby: A Painter's Quest for Canada (Libros Libertad, 2009)

[BCBW 2009] "Local History" "Forestry" "Art"

Magnificently Unrepentant (Heritage $19.95)

Selective logger Merve Wilkinson, 86, has been dubbed the Moses of North American eco-forestry. He has selectively logged his 136-acre lot near Ladysmith nine times since 1939, never diminishing the amount of trees on his Wildwood property for 50 years. “Walk into it today and it is like walking into one of nature’s cathedrals.” Jane Goodall wrote in 1999, “…You see it can be done.”

Despite his age, Wilkinson joined the anti-logging protests at Clayoquot and was willing to risk prison for his beliefs. Goody Niosi’s Magnificently Unrepentant (Heritage $19.95) is so-named because that’s the term a B.C. judge used to respectfully describe Wilkinson in 1999. Her profile of Wilkinson cites his roles as activist and educator.

Wilkinson has been unrepentantly consistent in his efforts to encourage intelligent forestry. “When I started to study forestry in the 1930’s,” he says, “much was known about a ‘tree’ but little about a ‘forest’.” Since then he has remained true to a magnificently simple approach to harvesting his trees: don’t cut more than the growth rate.

Wilkinson, a recent Order of British Columbia recipient, quips that the corporate understanding of interrelatedness “is simply the growth of profits interrelating with the economic well-being of the stockholders.” He believes clear-cutting methods overlook the importance of ecological balance.

Merve’s grandfather, Robert Wilkinson, emigrated to Canada in 1889 after he was blacklisted from working in the mines of England. Wilkinson, also a Methodist lay minister, had advocated getting children under the age of twelve out of the mines. He also lobbied for a ten-hour workday and a six-day workweek. Bob Wilkinson was labeled a communist and was proud of it. “The communist of today is the conservative of tomorrow,” he said.

Merve’s father, William Wilkinson, met his mother, Christina McOuat, in Cumberland. When he was born in 1913, he weighed twelve pounds. Neither Christina Wilkinson or her husband wanted to undergo the birthing process again, so Merve grew up as an only child.

A portion of the proceeds from Magnificently Unrepentant will go toward the B.C. Land Conservancy program to acquire his Wildwood forest and establish an Eco-forestry education centre there. “In speaking out against current industrial clearcut logging practices,” says Dr. David Suzuki, “Merve has become a genuine Canadian hero. Uncompromising, tough, fearless, with a wonderful sense of humour, he is now an elder who inspires young people who refer to his home as Mervana.”

Wilkinson married his third wife, Raging Granny Anne Pask, after she toured his woodlot in 1989. As a ‘kindred rebel’, Wilkinson refrained from asking for a senior’s discount on the marriage license. 1-894383-32-6

[BCBW Autumn 2001]

Ken Kirkby: A Painter's Quest for Canada (Libros Libertad, 2009)

ISBN 978-0-9810735-7-6 270 pages $27.95

“Ken Kirkby’s story is a story of an artist who entered the world of the Inuit and was transformed by the experience. Goody Niosi captures the remarkable story of Kirkby’s life with the Inuit. She paints the picture of the world he found, the overwhelming beauty of the northern lights, the pain of snow blindness, the danger of the hunt for food and most of all the transformation of Kirkby that allowed him “to walk through a golden door” and become part of a culture very different from our own; one in which people are non-possessive,non-violent, supremely philosophical and live life with a quiet sense of humour. Kirkby has used his astonishing talent as an artist to change Canada’s perception of the Inuit. In this beautifully written book, Niosi relates Kirkby’s story from his youth in Portugal to his work as an environmentalist.”

~ Thora Howell,
bookseller and librarian

"When Ken Kirkby unveiled his painting, Isumataq in Parliament on March 28, 1992, he had to make do with a 25-foot model and the first four panels of the painting itself. The original, at 152’ long and 12’ high would not fit into the building.But even the model brought tears to the eyes of the 301 members of Parliamentand senators gathered there.

"Isumataq is an Inuit word meaning, “An object in the presence of which wisdom might show itself” and refers to the manlike monuments of stone called Inuksuit that the Inuit have erected for generations to serve as travel guides and markers of good hunting and fishing. Kirkby’s hope was that the enormous painting he had been working on for ten years would open people’s eyes to the beauty of the north and to the plight of the Inuit in that far land. Kirkby describes Isumataq as “the portrait of the soul of a nation.”
Ken Kirkby: A Painter’s Quest for Canada is the story of a remarkable man who was born in England during the Second World War and grew up in Portugal under the tutelage of an old fisherman who filled his head with visions of a land of snow, icebergs and polar bears-a land of adventure and freedom. The young boy grew into a man who was determined to see that country."

-- Publisher's promotional text