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INUA Curators Share 4 Favourite Artworks from the Exhibition

Apr 05, 2021
by asinnajaq, Dr. Heather Igloliorte, Kablusiak and Krista Ulujuk Zawadski

Hailing from all four regions of Inuit Nunangat, the curatorial team at the helm of INUA, the inaugural exhibition of the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s new Inuit art centre Qaumajuq, will bring together art and artists from across the North for this landmark moment.

To learn more about some of the artworks included in the show, as well as others that call the WAG home, we asked each curator to share their unique perspective of an artwork of their choosing.  

Maureen Gruben. Inuvialuit (b. 1963 Tuktuyaaqtuuq). Waiting for the Shaman, 2017. Bones from polar bear paws and resin. 55.9 û 55.9 û 2.5 cm. Photo Kyra Kordowski.

Maureen Gruben
Waiting for the Shaman (2017)
Courtesy Winnipeg Art Gallery Photo Kyra Kordowski

Maureen GrubenWaiting for the Shaman (2017) 

Indigenous artists’ works are often reduced to a dichotomy of traditional and contemporary. This is an easy conclusion to draw and a simple method for removing complexities and ignoring colonization within an art context. I won’t draw harsh lines between traditional and contemporary, because as Inuvialuit we bring our traditions into everything we do; it is embedded within us, present from before we are born. Maureen Gruben’s material use—blending organic and inorganic, “traditional” and “contemporary”—addresses a nuanced conversation that critiques environmental destruction specific to the Inuvialuit Settlement Region and how colonization has affected and is now intertwined with Inuvialuit culture. Waiting for the Shaman (2017) is a beautiful example of how Gruben exhibits her relationship to both materials and her culture. Embedded in the work is a long history of Inuvialuit knowledge, relationships to the land and animals and a respect for our evolving Inuvialuit society. 



Pudlo Pudlat
Women at the Fish Lakes (1977) Printmaker Pitseolak Niviaqsi Lithograph 37.5 × 47 cm
Reproduced with permission Dorset Fine Arts Government of Nunavut Fine Art Collection Courtesy Winnipeg Art Gallery Photo Kyra Kordowski © The Artist

Pudlo PudlatWomen at the Fish Lakes (1977) 

Inuit art can be timeless and carry relevance in Inuit lives for a long time. Today, spring fishing continues to be a major event in our communities and is a very family-orientated activity. The imagery by Pudlo Pudlat in Women at the Fish Lakes (1977) evokes my own memories of family fishing when I was a child, drawing me into the scene and reminding me of the importance of familial connections. 

–Krista Ulujuk Zawadski

Joe Talirunili. Inuit (Puvirnituq), 1906-1976. Migration, 1951.71. stone, bone, gut, sinew. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Photo Ernest Mayer

Joe Talirunili
Migration (c. 1965) Stone, bone, gut and sinew 22 × 30.2 × 14.8 cm
Courtesy Winnipeg Art Gallery Photo Kyra Kordowski

Joe TaliruniliMigration (c. 1965) 

The late Nunavik artist Joe Talirunili’s work is filled with versions of the Migration story. In this stone piece, an umiaq (skin boat) is filled to the brim with passengers. A wooden mast and skin sail fly above the passengers as they paddle forward. Though Migration (c. 1965) is already iconic, I think it is important for my co-curators and I to include it in our upcoming show INUA. As we think about the future of Inuit and how we move forward—inspiring and encouraging one another—this piece embodies the idea of working together, because that’s how we are strongest.


Michael Massie. Inuit (Happy Valley-Goose Bay), b. 1962. Subtle-tea, 1997. silver, wood. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Gift of the Canadian Museum of Inuit Art, 2017-564

Michael Massie
subtle-tea (1997) Sterling silver and bird’s eye maple 21 × 27 × 6 cm
Courtesy Winnipeg Art Gallery Photo Kyra Kordowski
Michael Massie CM, RCAsubtle-tea (1997) 

I’ve known Michael Massie for nearly twenty years. I’ve always felt an affinity to his rule-breaking work, and not just because we’re both from Nunatsiavut. Back home we never really had co-ops or access to southern art councils to advise us on art production, so artists like Massie developed distinct voices in media that, when he was starting out, were considered quite daring, even scandalous for the Inuit art world. “It was just thrilling to be a shit-disturber,” Massie has said about his national debut in the 1990s. Ever the punny Inuk, Massie told me that the title of this work resulted from a creative accident: “I etched the syllabic for ‘tea’ on it, but the etch didn’t turn out as boldly as I wanted, so I ended up calling it ‘subtle-tea.’” 

–Dr. Heather Igloliorte

This article first appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly.




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