Inuk artist Gayle Uyagaqi Kabloona has elevated World Indigenous Peoples' Day to a new level of recognition this year, creating three wallpaper backgrounds for Google Pixel phones, which are used by millions worldwide.
This is the first year special wallpapers have been available on the device to celebrate World Indigenous Peoples' Day, which now joins the ranks of 17 other holidays and commemorative days, including Earth Day and Black History Month, to have specialty wallpaper featured.
Kabloona is a multidisciplinary artist based in Ottawa, ON, who creates everything from ceramics to wallhangings and more. Her work often incorporates traditional Inuit stories, with graphics inspired by the art of her grandmother, Victoria Mamnguqsualuk, and the colours and bold shapes of her great-grandmother, Jessie Oonark.
Gayle Uyagaqi Kabloona Interconnected (2022) © the artist
“I loved the creative freedom I was given,” Kabloona says about the project when reached by email. She began working on the wallpapers after Google approached her in May 2022. “It's my first international project and first time working with such a huge company.”
Although the scope of this project is much bigger than any she has previously tackled, Kabloona is no stranger to displaying her work to the public: she has appeared frequently in the Inuit Art Quarterly as both a writer and an artist—her feature on transportation in Inuit art can be found in the Summer 2022 Unikkaat/Unikkaaqtuat issue, and her article reimagining traditional Inuit stories from a modern feminist point of view is available at IAQ Online. In 2022 she embarked on a Creative Research Residency at the Art Gallery of Guelph that culminated in displaying her art in the exhibition ᑲᔪHᐃᐅᑎHᐃᒪᔭᑦᑲ | Kajuhiutihimajatka: What I’m Carrying On.
“At first it was hard to decide what to do visually to represent the world's Indigenous peoples, which are all so diverse,” she says about the design process behind the wallpapers. “But I reeled it back to what I know and what I love about my own culture. I came up with the theme of connection: to each other, to culture, wildlife, land and water.”
Gayle Uyagaqi Kabloona Life And Water (2022) © the artist
Accordingly, the three wallpapers Kabloona created each touch on one of these themes: Helping Hands, depicting two hands reaching to clasp, is “to reclaim, celebrate and continue Indigenous culture.” Interconnected, a series of faces whose outlines overlap, is about how “our Indigenous communities are strong because of their people,” and Life and Water, patterns of fish swimming surrounded by kakiniit, traditional Inuit tattoos, shows healthy people and communities mingled with healthy wildlife in the world.
These new World Indigenous Peoples' Day wallpapers are now available in the Wallpaper & Style app for the Pixel 3 to Pixel 6a. “I’m so glad they’re out now!” says Kabloona.