Family connections run deep at Qaumajuq exhibit in Winnipeg

Qaumajuq is unlike any space that Heather Igloliorte has even seen before and that’s saying a lot given she’s a curator and art historian.

The new, 17,186 square metre museum is home to the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world.

Igloliorte, an Inuk scholar, is also one of the co-curators of the first exhibition to be on display at the new $65 million Inuit Art Centre, known as Qaumajuq, at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG).

The exhibition, INUA, is also the first time a curatorial team represents all four regions of Inuit Nunangat. All four of the curators also have included work of their family members in the exhibit.

Igloliorte included a beaded, caribou hide purse that her grandmother made.

“It’s pretty amazing to get to get to include your own family members in an exhibition and to really honour those connections. I think as Inuit, we’re not a big population, we’re maybe 70,000 people in Canada today and if you think about this collection having 14,000 works, I think there’s a lot of Inuit who have relatives that are in this building. I think it’s really exciting.,” says Igloliorte.

Many of Igloliorte’s family members are involved in the art world in one way and she believes that is likely the case for many Inuit.

She is not just one of the curator’s of INUA, she is also a co-chair of the WAG’s Indigenous Advisory Committee.

The conversation around what it means to have the largest collection of contemporary Inuit art located in Winnipeg instead of in Inuit Nunangat somewhere was one that happened very early on.

“It was really important to us that we talk to people who work all throughout arts and culture in the city and to bring in elders and to build that relationship before the ground was even broken for the opening of the museum. We’re so grateful to the Indigenous peoples of this land who are hosting the institution here,” says Igloliorte.

The government of Nunavut collection that includes thousands of works are on long term loan to the WAG right now.

Igloliorte says WAG has the expertise and digitization technology to take care of the collection now and to make sure it goes home in the near future.

She believes new exhibits like INUA are changing the narrative on Inuit art, allowing Inuit to tell their stories from their own perspectives.

“What we’re really hoping as a curatorial team is that people who maybe think about Inuit art in one way, that really important history of sculptures and prints and drawings and wall hangings and other practices, we really want them to come and see that Inuit art is anything made by an Inuk and that it can be anything,” says Igloliorte.

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