• Beyond the Gallery

A Glimpse into KAMA Shortlister Show, Anaanatta Unikkaangit (Our Mother’s Stories)

Sep 12, 2023
by IAQ

Content note: This article contains a brief mention of residential schools.

Anaanatta Unikkaangit (Our Mother’s Stories), which opened this spring at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG)-Qaumajuq and runs until November 12, is the first-ever exhibition of works by the finalists for the Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award

The biennial prize was established by the Inuit Art Foundation in 2014 by generous members of the Inuit art community to honour the life and work of the late Kenojuak Ashevak, CC, ONu, RCA. With the partnership of WAG-Qaumajuq and support of RBC Emerging Artists, the award celebrates contemporary artists by facilitating opportunities for artistic development and career growth. The 2023 winner will be announced in September and receive $20,000, a solo exhibition in 2025, as well as a dedicated residency, catalogue and an acquisition.

Beyond celebrating the five shortlisted artists, Anaanatta Unikkaangit (Our Mother’s Stories) also brings their work together to share space, drawing connections between common themes and influences: intergenerational knowledge, material practices, advocacy and remembrance. Curated by Marie-Anne Redhead, WAG-Qaumajuq’s Assistant Curator of Indigenous and Contemporary Art, the show traverses artistic practices and territories, featuring the broad-ranging and ambitious work of nominees Billy Gauthier, Maureen Gruben, Gayle Uyagaqi Kabloona, Kablusiak and Ningiukulu Teevee. “I wanted the artists’ practices to be the focus of the show,” Redhead says, describing her curatorial approach. “I wanted their voices. I wanted them to be really involved in which artworks would be shown.” 

Here, Redhead speaks with the Inuit Art Quarterly about the resulting exhibition, which offers a glimpse into the practices of the five shortlisted artists and the stories that inspire and inform them.


Installation view of Anaanatta Unikkaangit (Our Mother’s Stories)

Inuit Art Quarterly: Can you tell us about the title for the show?

Marie-Anne Redhead: One common thread between the artworks is some aspect of femininity or the idea of a mother—even referring to the land as a mother. The title also references Kenojuak Ashevak as an influential figure. The idea of stories was important. They say so much about who you are: stories are about you, your community and your people. 

IAQ: Was there anything that surprised you about the curatorial process? 

MR: When you’re working with things in your head, it’s so abstract. You don’t know how it will feel until it comes together in the room. The show is a lot more colourful than I expected. It is very vibrant and celebratory but also encompasses this notion of honouring, with moments that are more sombre or reflective. I found it so beautiful that it looks so joyful. 

IAQ: Were there teachings or principles that you wanted to bring into the show? 

MR: It’s important for me to position myself in relation to a project I’m working on and to take into account my experiences, influences and identity. I’m Cree and my people come from around the Hudson Bay. One of the principles going into curating this show was about being in good relation with the Inuit community and with the artists—listening to them and thanking them, respecting them, honouring them for everything that has been imparted to me as a result of working on this exhibition. I am trying to foster reciprocity. 

IAQ: How do you hope that people might feel after seeing the show? 

MR: For each artist, I wanted to show something that’s exemplary of their practice, something recognizable—something that shows why they’re on the shortlist for this award. I hope that people feel inspired, excited and curious about these artists. I hope they feel the excitement that I had going into it and the excitement that the artists have. I hope they feel that love—for each other, for their families, for the land, for their cultures and languages.


Billy Gauthier
Sedna’s Tears (2008) Serpentinite, labradorite and slate 32 x 30.5 x 6.5 cm

Billy Gauthier

Newfoundland-based sculptor Billy Gauthier’s admiration for his materials and attention to his subjects are readily apparent. In Shaman Drummer (2008) the artist captures the shaman’s fluid motions mid-drum-dance, while in Sedna’s Tears (2008), the cascading hair of the sculpture becomes a wave that both depicts the water goddess’ story, and attests to the interdependence of humans, land and waters. “I had found an APTN article where Billy was talking about the land,” Redhead describes, “and referring to it as ‘mother.’ That was such a beautiful way to inform his practice. I am so moved when I look at his carvings. You can tell there is so much respect when you look at them.”

“I think a lot of people might not really understand the connection I have to the materials I use. I feel like I almost owe them as much as I possibly can give: as much energy, as much work, as much time. And most of them are from nature, which is so important to me. I feel really deeply connected to them.”


Installation view of Anaanatta Unikkaangit (Our Mother’s Stories)

Maureen Gruben

In Inuvialuk multimedia artist Maureen Gruben’s work, land-based knowledges are shaped, translated and encased by traditionally harvested and human-made materials. “Tiktalik (2023) is a mixed-media series of pages containing transcriptions of oral stories by Susie Tiktalik and muskox mittens,” Redhead describes. “Tiktalik, in Maureen Gruben’s own words, is one of the last female nomads of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, and the stories are about her life living on the land, following the caribou. That the stories and mittens made from land-based materials are wrapped in plastic is both characteristic of Maureen’s work, while also evocative of an urgency to protect or preserve these stories.”


Maureen Gruben
Tiktalik (detail) (2023) Muskox wool, muskox horn needles, spun polar bear thread, Arctic cotton, steel uluit, copper, rabbit fur, bubble wrap and packing tape Dimensions variable

“I love mixing traditional and industrial materials because that’s the world that we live in today. There’s so much man-made material, but it’s also an aesthetic thing for me.”


Installation view of Anaanatta Unikkaangit (Our Mother’s Stories)

Gayle Uyagaqi Kabloona

Ottawa, ON–based Gayle Uyagaqi Kabloona’s works are staged to highlight the playful graphic approaches she’s taken to highlight her family’s stories across ceramics, collage and printmaking. “I wanted the way the work was displayed to feel natural and alive. I am trying to move away from using plinths in my curatorial practice because they often act as a symbol of conquest,” says Redhead. “For Gayle Kabloona’s work, I wanted to capture the idea of feeling at home, like visiting your grandmother. Gayle does a lot of graphic design and illustrations, so I said, “Let’s get a wallpaper in there!”


Installation view of Anaanatta Unikkaangit (Our Mother’s Stories), featuring Gayle Uyagaqi Kabloona’s Aggaat (hands) (2023) and Ulu irngusiq (ulu mug) (2019)

“When my work goes out in the world, I really feel the connection with other people. I’m pouring myself into the piece and then if it resonates with somebody else, I already know that we’re operating on the same wavelength.”


Originally shown in 2021 at YYZ Artists’ Outlet in Toronto, ON, an installation by Calgary, AB-based Inuvialuk artist Kablusiak reflects on the history of residential schools and the inherent absurdity of experiencing trauma-laden places. “The words ‘DANGER’ and ‘ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK’—things you’d read on a sign at a haunted house or abandoned building, were sprawled across the outlet’s social media promotion for the event. It was evident that this was a satirical take on dark tourism—or trauma tourism—which includes visiting sites associated with death—or in this case, genocide,” Redhead explains. Featuring a vintage doll, a cup and plate from Grollier Hall residential school in Inuvik, Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT, an image of the cemetery in Tuktuuyaqtuuq (Tuktoyaktuk), Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT, and a Halloween soundtrack, Suvittuq!  ̄\_(ツ)_/ ̄ • Can’t be helped/ Too bad!  ̄\_(ツ)_/ ̄ displays an uncanny blend of remembrance and irony. As Redhead explains, the installation directly engages with how “Indigenous peoples’ traumas are exposed and consumed by non-Indigenous audiences.”


Suviittuq!  ̄\_(ツ)_/ ̄ • Can’t be helped/Too bad!  ̄\_(ツ)_/ ̄ (2023) A plastic doll, a plate and cup from Grollier Hall, a custom-printed photo backdrop of the Tuktuuyaqtuuq cemetery, and Halloween music and decoration

“If I’m going to be sad about colonialism and make art about it, I either want it to be so fucking ridiculous that it sets people off or have it open enough that people can relate to it.”

Ningiukulu Teevee

In works by Ningiukulu Teevee, a sharp eye for the everyday and a witty approach to Inuit legends are brought to life in lovingly rendered pencil drawings. Kiakshuk’s Polar Bear (2017) pays homage to renowned Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU, graphic artist Kiakshuk and to his son, Lukta Qiatsuk, who made prints and sculptures based on his father’s work, participating in passing on his stories. In selecting works for the show, Redhead and Teevee looked at many of Teevee’s works together. “Both of us love Kiakshuk’s Polar Bear,” Redhead says. “Ever since I first laid eyes on that drawing, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. When I showed her the works in the collection she said, ‘Yeah, that’s one of my favourites.’”


Ningiukulu Teevee
Kiakshuk’s Polar Bear (2017) Graphite and coloured pencil 69 × 106 cm

“At first, I made art because we needed money. But then I felt that I needed to keep our stories alive—our Inuit myths and legends that were told by our Elders.”


Learn more about KAMA and the shortlisted artists.



1. Excerpt from “How Chance Encounters Inspire Billy Gauthier’s Carvings,” interview by IAQ, IAQ Online, February 27, 2023, https://www.inuitartfoundation.org/iaq-online/how-chance-encounters-inspire-billy-gauthier-s-carvings.

2. Excerpt from “From an Artist’s Perspective: An Interview With Maureen Gruben,” interview by Napatsi Folger, IAQ Online, November 5, 2019, https://www.inuitartfoundation.org/iaq-online/interview-maureen-gruben.

3. Excerpt from “How Gayle Uyagaqi Kabloona Builds Connection,” interview by IAQ, IAQ Online, February 27, 2023, https://www.inuitartfoundation.org/iaq-online/how-gayle-uyagaqi-kabloona-builds-connection.

4. Billy-Ray Belcourt, “Fucking Around with Inuit Art,” Inuit Art Quarterly, Spring 2022: 48. 

5. Excerpt from “The Spirited Storytelling of Ningiukulu Teevee,” interview by IAQ, IAQ Online, February 27, 2023, https://www.inuitartfoundation.org/iaq-online/the-spirited-storytelling-of-ningiukulu-teevee.

This Feature first appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of Inuit Art Quarterly.

Suggested Reads

Related Artists