I had driven my bicycle through this soaring art piece so many times but had never stopped to find out what it was all about or who had created it. Last week as I cycled across Broadway and then biked the path up to the Forks along the river, I decided to take some time exploring it. The 30-foot high sculpture is called Niimaamaa (pronounced nee-ma-ma) and its creators say it is meant to be a figure of a pregnant woman representing Mother Earth and new beginnings.
There are seven cascading strands of hair on one side of the piece representing the seven sacred teachings of love, respect, humility, courage, wisdom, truth and honesty. The figure gazes up at the sky and out onto the nearby river. Niimaamaa means My Mother and is a word recognized by Cree, Ojibwe and Metis speakers.
I spent a long time looking at Niimaamaa trying to understand the way the river waters of the Red and Assiniboine are represented in the art piece as well as the seven-sister constellations also know as The Pleiades. The copper dress the pregnant figure is wearing is a symbol of prosperity and strength.
The highly polished metal invites viewers to see themselves reflected in the sculpture as a reminder of our responsibility to protect Mother Earth.
When I read the sign at the site I discovered that the creators of the piece were Val Vint, K.C. Adams and Jaimie Isaac. Jaimie is the Curator of Indigenous and Contemporary Art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery where I work. An amazing exhibit Jaimie curated along with Julie Nagam called Insurgence/Resurgence was on show at the WAG for seven months in 2017 and 2018. Julie also provided curatorial support for the Niimaamaa project.
We have frequently had K.C. Adams‘ work on display at the WAG. You may know K.C. best from her series Perceptions. These duo portraits were seen all over Winnipeg in 2015. K.C. took stereotypical and racist references for indigenous people and turned them on their ear by showing accomplished and successful members of the First Nation community.
I was excited to learn that K.C. Adams, Jaimie Issac and Val Vint will each have other works of public art on display in and around The Forks in the future. These pieces will be completed and opened in 2020 and 2021. I look forward to seeing them too.