If you have walked by the old Hudson’s Bay store in downtown Winnipeg recently you might have noticed this mural in one of the windows.
The original mural which is in the permanent collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery was made with oil sticks by Elisapee Ishulutaq when she was 90 years old. For five days in 2014, Elisapee slid along the floor in her apron, sealskin boots, and knitted sweater with her wire-frame glasses perched on her nose to create a vibrant scene that records the history of her home community of Pangnirtung in Nunavut.
You can watch a video and see how Elisapee gets out of her wheelchair, kneels down on the floor, and fearlessly starts to draw marks with her oil sticks on a long piece of paper to make her mural.
Elisapee’s mural features things from the past like sleds, sealskin tents, and kids playing tug of war games with animal bones. She also includes things from the present like all-terrain vehicles, wooden buildings, and kids playing hockey.
In the video, you can hear Elisapee describing in her native language what life was like in Pangnirtung. Her narration is interspersed with laughter and song.
She laughs heartily as she talks about the games children played long ago in winter. She demonstrates how windows were made with seal skin intestine and describes the seal skin tents people lived in.
One side of her mural shows summer scenes and the other depicts the winter months in Pangnirtung. Elisapee wanted the old way of life in the north to be remembered by future generations and hoped that her art could do that.
Elisapee Ishulutaq was a renowned artist, who was awarded the Order of Canada. She is known for her expressive, autobiographical images of daily life in Canada’s Arctic. She died in 2018.
Elisapee said that in this section of her mural the bright blue building was the Hudson’s Bay store in Pangnirtung. Now Elisapee’s mural is being displayed larger than life on another Hudson’s Bay store. I think that’s pretty neat!