Empowering All Inuit

“I am one of the four curators representing all the different regions from across the Arctic,” Krista Ulujuk Zawadski says. “I see this opportunity, as does my team, as a chance to empower all Inuit.”

Krista Ulujuk Zawadski is a member of the curatorial team designing INUA, the highly anticipated opening exhibition of the WAG Inuit Art Centre. While Krista’s home is Rankin Inlet, she is now based in Ottawa, working full time on her multidisciplinary PhD. She is also parenting young children, and maintaining the working title of Curator of Inuit Art for the Government of Nunavut. Krista recently received the Inuit Cultural Repatriation Award from Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami in recognition of her commitment to respecting and promoting Inuit cultural rights.

She continues, “Inuit people come in all different shapes, sizes and genders, and come from different geographical regions of the north with different dialects.”

“I want to take this occasion to explore our differences,” Krista emphasized. “And represent and empower all Inuit. I want us to move forward as Inuit people in all our glory.”

This diversity is what Krista says the team is aiming for in their work together. “We’re going beyond the labels of children, men and women. We’re a diverse, colourful people; but unified.”

Rooted in the past, moving forward

Krista is excited for the upcoming show. “The team talked about our vision and we agreed on a theme. It’s futurism. It’s about going forward.”

The team asked themselves how to represent this theme in the art and the new pieces being created. Krista says: “Inuit people, like so many cultures, value rootedness in the past. When people think of Inuit art they think of carvings and sculptures made in the ‘50s and ‘60s. I want people to see that Inuit artists from today are doing so many interesting things beyond carving, but that we’re still rooted in our old traditions and practices.”

“The show itself will demonstrate we’re a strong resilient people,” Krista says. “We’re always looking forward. Inuit artists are always moving forward.”

Curved lines of the WAG Inuit Art Centre

At first the curators were unsure how to work their theme with the new building’s curving lines, and what kind of art would flow well with the building.

“We didn’t know at first how to work without square walls, but then it became part of the theme.” Krista describes Inuit art as adaptive and inventive, and how this is represented in the building. “It’s not square walls. It’s not a box. We’re going beyond putting people and art in a box.”

Supporting Inuit culture

“For me as a student, I also want people to use the resources like the library and the studio space.” Krista is passionate about the community coming to the WAG Inuit Art Centre to immerse themselves in Inuit art, culture and voice. “I want people to learn about what the artist is saying, and what the work is saying.”

Krista also hopes to compel visitors to explore: “First and foremost, buy Inuit art. I want people to walk away thinking ‘How can I support these emerging artists? How can I help them succeed and explore their practice?’”

Krista goes on to detail all the ways the WAG Inuit Art Centre will provide support to new artists, “Creating artist residencies where artists can explore their art, offering studio space to young artists, introducing them to curators and collaborators, writing about them so they have a review.”

“Something very beautiful is coming out of this building,” Krista says. “I’m happy with the WAG and what they’re doing. They’re taking big steps toward indigenizing and decolonizing Inuit art.”

You have created these opportunities. Thank you!

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The Winnipeg Art Gallery is located on Treaty No. 1 the original lands and waters of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininiwak, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation.
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