Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Landmark solo show by Inuit artist at Washington’s Smithsonian

Edward Atkinson just e-mailed me from Igloolik, an island hamlet in Nunavut (the largest, newest, northernmost territory of Canada), to say that Abraham Anghik Ruben has become the first Inuit sculptor ever to get a solo exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Ed is Territorial Archivist for the Government of Nunavut and co-author of my cover feature on “The Renaissance in Inuit art marketing” in the July/August 2012 issue of Above & Beyond:  Canada’s Arctic Journal (see pages 25-29 of the magazine.)  http://issuu.com/arctic_journal/docs/above_and_beyond_july_august_2012/1?mode=a_p  

This new development in Washington certainly seems to confirm one of the premises of our article, that Inuit art has now gone mainstream--or at least I should say more mainstream.  (I've never heard of an Inuit artist having a solo exhibition at Washington's National Gallery yet.) 

Ruben was born in Paulatuk, Northwest Territories, Canada, and currently lives on Salt Spring Island, one of the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia.  His Washington exhibition is presented from October 05, 2012 to January 02, 2013 in conjunction with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s 18th Inuit Studies Conference. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thoughts on today’s canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha

My heart travelled with the Kahnawákeró:non (Mohawks of Kahnawake) to Rome, where the Vatican declared Kateri Tekakwitha a saint this morning, making her the first aboriginal North American person to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.  The Grand Chief and Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake and an estimated 200 Kahnawákeró:non attended her canonization ceremony along with thousands of other pilgrims.  I celebrated the event closer to home with Jesuit friends at The Martyr’s Shrine in Midland, Ontario, a Roman Catholic pilgrim church dedicated to eight early Jesuit missionaries to Canada, but which also has a history of devotion to Blessed Kateri (the former titled bestowed on her after she had passed three of the four steps required for canonization.)  

Saint Kateri died in 1680 at the age of 24.  The above photo shows a sculpture of her by Quebec sculptor Joseph-Émile Brunet at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré near Quebec City.  But her actual physical remains are entombed in a marble shrine at Saint Francis-Xavier Church in Kahnawake, located in the Canadian province of Quebec, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River across from Montreal.  Thus her canonization is expected to bolster interest in Kahnawake as a historic and religious tourist attraction—a development that I sincerely hope will change the community in only positive ways for its inhabitants.  

The canonization of this young native woman interests me for a lot of personal reasons, including the amazing Ojibwe nanny who looked after me when I was small, the friends and colleagues from First Nations I have met since then who have continued to bring so much warmth and humour into my life, and my coverage of the canonization of Juan Diego, an indigenous Mexican, by Pope John Paul II for the Toronto Star in 2002.