Tag Archives: Indigenous female artists

Elisapee, Shelley and Oviloo

During the eight years, I worked at the Winnipeg Art Gallery I had the privilege of getting to know the work of so many talented and inspiring Indigenous female artists. Since this is Indigenous history month I thought I would showcase three of them each with a major work they created. I photographed all the artwork in this post at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Elisapee Ishulutaq has used oil sticks to record the history of the community of Pangnirtung in her colourful mural Yesterday and Today.

For five days in 2014, Elisapee slid along the floor in her apron, seal skin boots and knitted sweater, with her wire-frame glasses perched on her nose, creating a vibrant scene of life in her home community of Pangnirtung, Nunavut. You can see what life was like in Pangnirtung, generations ago, as well as today.

Elisapee is 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.

Shelley Niro made these huge woodcuts on woven paper in 2001 for a series she calls Resting With Warriors.

Shelley Niro’s art is very much influenced by the bead, birchbark and carving work she saw being created around her while growing up on the Mohawk Nation near Brantford Ontario. With the Resting With Warriors series, she wanted to give young girls an alternate image of Indigenous women, one not usually seen in the mass media.

In 2017 Shelley won the Governor General’s Award for excellence in visual art.

Oviloo in Hospital by Oviloo Tunille 2002

Over more than a decade Oviloo Tunnillie, an artist from Cape Dorset created a series of serpentinite sculptures to illustrate her experience of being sent to a sanatorium in Manitoba for two years when she contracted tuberculosis at age 5.

Oviloo in Bed by Oviloo Tunille

She was taken away on a ship and separated from her family. Her treatment at the hospital included periods of bed rest during which she was tied to her bed and she was sexually abused by a doctor.

Nurse with Crying Child by Oviloo Tunille- 2001

When Oviloo was finally returned home she felt like she hardly knew her family anymore. She had forgotten much of the Inuktitut language, was used to eating different foods and had learned new cultural ways.

Oviloo with her granddaughter photo by Jerry Riley

Although the experience of being taken to away to a TB hospital was not unique to Oviloo, she is the only Inuit artist to have referenced it directly in her art.

Oviloo is noted for defying convention and cataloguing the story of contemporary women in the North. She is one of only a few female Inuit carvers to gain international success. She died in 2014 of cancer.

Other Indigenous Female Artists.…….

Transferring the Real to the Unreal

And Mary You’ve Seen Hard Times

Four Grandmothers

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