Re-connecting Families Through Art

In January, the WAG became a sharing and training centre for Nunavut-based arts workers. Trainings and knowledge exchanges like this will soon become a regular occurrence with the opening of the Inuit Art Centre.

Ipeelie Ootoova searched the collections database and found 13 artists from his home community of Pond Inlet in the collection. Some of the artists were very close to him. “There was a carving by my late father, and another by my uncle. Seeing the whalebone carving of a narwhal, by my father, who was an elder, brought up mixed emotions. I was both happy and sad to see the piece. It was the highlight of my trip.” (Photo above)

Ipeelie was one of nine Government of Nunavut Culture and Heritage Workers who met at the future site of the Inuit Art Centre to take part in a week-long museum and conservation workshop, designed specifically for them. They are all currently working with collections in museums, culture and heritage facilities in communities across Nunavut. Ipeelie works at the Cambridge Bay Visitor Centre.

On a tour of the vault with Darlene Wright, WAG Curator of Inuit Art, Ipeelie was “amazed to see how many carvings and drawings were down there.” We were honoured to be able to introduce him to the collection.

Ipeelie was pleased to contribute by giving his father’s full name, and dates of his birth and death, to add to the database curators and researchers use. He hopes that more gaps will be filled in from meetings like this. “I know when people come to the Inuit Art Centre, they’ll be looking for art by family members, and will use the database to look up artists from a particular region.”

Conservation training techniques to care for carvings
Ipeelie’s work includes taking visitors to witness local carvers creating, and guiding people through the people, history and culture of Cambridge Bay, Kitikmeot region and Holman Island, using artifacts and carvings. “I was happy to learn more about how to take care of carvings. The WAG staff was well educated on conservation, and I will use this in my work.”

Joining Ipeelie were Pam Gross, Andrew Parker, Jennifer Ullulaq, Special Kusugak, Simeonie Kisa-Knickelbein, Aaron Watson, Ipeelie Ootoova, Maata Parr, and Bernadette Niviatsiak; as well as staff from GN Culture and Heritage Department: Krista Zawadski, Michael Salomonie, and Elizabeth Allakariallak Roberts; all working to preserve and enhance Nunavut’s culture, heritage and languages.

While here, the group toured the Government of Nunavut Fine Art Collection, currently on long-term loan to the WAG, as well as the WAG galleries and the Inuit Art Centre construction site. Ipeelie reflected on touring the Inuit Art Centre: “It will be wonderful to have the space for the artwork, and to have it all in one place. And of course, to showcase the talent of Inuit and Nunavut art and artists,” says Ipeelie.

Michael Salomonie provided the following photographs of their stay and expressed their sincere gratitude for the successful relationship building experience.

Michael with a photo of his paternal grandfather, Kananginak Pootoogook. His [Pootoogook] work in 1957 onward opened the first ever CO-OP system in Canada’s far north as an experiment from the Canadian Government. That Co-operative (WBEC) is now established Kinngait (Cape Dorset) as the Inuit Art Capital of the world. Photo by: Colleen Leduc
Kenojuak Cultural Centre and Print Shop located in Kinngait (Cape Dorset) Photo by: Michael Salomonie

Your generous commitment to the Inuit Art Centre is building strong relationships between the North and South. Nakurmiik – 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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