Qaumajuq considers the past with respect to the future

By: Julianna Chubenko

Glenn Gear, a visual artist and filmmaker from Newfoundland created Iluani/ Salami (It’s Full of Stars) for Qaumajuq. /JULIANNA CHUBENKO

Qaumajuq is bringing people into the history, culture, and art of the Inuit people as an action of reconciliation.

The Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) and The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) worked together to bring Qaumajuq to Winnipeg this spring. 

“On this journey we’ve declared loudly that art is a voice. It shapes our experiences; it opens our hearts and minds to new ideas,” said Dr. Stephen Borys, director and CEO of the WAG.

There are around 14,000 pieces of art and about 90 Inuit artists’ work being showcased.

“The love of their culture and land is embodied in the pieces of work,” said Luke Kandia, 59, an RRC grad and a visitor of the exhibit.

Qaumajuq shows Inuit culture through different forms of art, including beadwork, traditional clothing, paintings, and sculptures.

“You see their struggles, thoughts, expressions, and feelings translated through their art as you get to know them,” Kandia said.

Elisapee Ishulutaq created the mural Yesterday and Today to show everyday life in the community of Pangnirtung./JULIANNA CHUBENKO

This exhibit fulfills call 14i in the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada’s 94 calls to action. This call states that there is an importance to maintain Aboriginal languages in Canadian culture and society.

“It is important for people to see it to correct stereotypes and gather more information on what Inuit culture is all about,” said Lisa Kazmerik, 60, who also visited the exhibit.

Kazmerik, a retiree, says as a child in school she was not taught the proper terminology and information about Inuit people.

The exhibit is important for people to learn and correct stereotypes through the artists personal stories and art, she said.

Artists Mattiusi Iyaituk and Etienne Guay created this motorcycle sidecar, entitled, Iqaluullamiluuq (First Mermaid). /JULIANNA CHUBENKO

Many Indigenous languages such as, Inuktitut (Inuit), Inuvialuktun (Inuit), Anishinaabemowin (Anishinaabe/Ojibway) and many more are present in Qaumajuq. The WAG said it is the first time Indigenous naming has been a big part of any major art organizations in Canada 

“It forms and shifts our perspectives. Qaumajuq is welcome to all of these possibilities: it is bright, it is lit,” said Borys.

Riley Paul, 22, a University of Winnipeg student, said compared to a lot of the Eurocentric art available at the WAG, Qaumajuq offers an interesting perspective to a non-Indigenous person.

“Seeing Indigenous and Inuit art in Winnipeg is really important and I learnt a lot about Inuit art and history from the exhibit,” said Paul.

Aline Halischak, learning and programs coordinator for the WAG, said there were around 200 visitors every two hours on the opening week of the exhibit.

Visit the WAG website and book a time slot to learn more about Inuit culture and tradition through Qaumajuq.