From the Chauvet Cave of Southern France to the internationally renowned art of Banksy, humans have been creating murals for over 30,000 years. In this Portfolio we celebrate the colourful murals of five Inuit artists across Canada.
Between Spring 2018 and Spring 2020, Winnipegers walking along Memorial Boulevard and St. Mary Avenue were dazzled by the unexpected sight of an Arctic underwater scene, spanning the length of the pedestrian walkway and signalling the future home of Qaumajuq, the Inuit art centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) in Manitoba. Emerging artist Kale Sheppard has spent most of their life in Winnipeg, where they saw the Insurgence/ Resurgence (2017-18) exhibition at the gallery and was inspired to reach out to staff in the hopes that they could participate in any Inuit arts initiatives available. Having spent only a few years in their father’s community of Postville, Nunatsiavut, NL, the artist commented that, “it was the first time I’d really seen Inuit art being represented.” Sheppard wanted to be a part of it.
During the planning of the new centre, Sheppard was commissioned to produce a temporary mural on the boardwalk abutting the Qaumajuq site. For the piece, Sheppard sought to depict important cultural imagery and themes while maintaining their distinctive artistic style that favours bold lines and colours.
Here we see the cool tones and colour blocking that create a gorgeous sense of movement and flow, complete with seals and other sea creatures that are so essential to Inuit culture. For the artist, the feedback from the local Inuit community upon the completion of their mural was paramount in them feeling more connected with other Inuit and consequently linked to their roots in a larger urban centre. Sheppard admitted that, “there was a time where I felt like I was the only one.” But after working on the mural and visiting the Manitoba Inuit Association they realized, “there’s more of us in the city than I originally thought.” Many urban Inuit experience that kind of cultural isolation in cities, and mural art showing our culture can bring a sense of home and togetherness that is sometimes sorely needed.
This Feature was originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly.