Unikkausivut: Stories from the North, January 16 – March 13, 2020, Hess Gallery, Level 6, Centre for the Arts


Curator: Jaylyn Potts, Museum Studies Intern

Works from the Marmie Hess Collection.

Unikkausivut: Stories from the North features a selection of Inuit prints that illustrate the colourful stories that have been passed down through many generations. Many Canadians are unfamiliar with Inuit stories – in spite of their number and variety – because they were traditionally passed along orally. Inuit communities use storytelling as a way to share knowledge about their history and culture; with each new generation comes new details, thus contributing to the many variations and abundance of their stories.

Curatorial Statement
Unikkausivut: Stories from the North features a selection of Inuit prints that illustrate the colourful stories that have been passed down through generations. Many Canadians are unfamiliar with Inuit stories – in spite of their number and variety – because they were traditionally passed along by word of mouth. Inuit communities have used and continue to use storytelling as a way to share knowledge about their history and culture; with each new generation comes new details, thus contributing to the many variations of their stories.

When I began my curatorial internship, I made it my goal to primarily select artwork that has never been publicly shown at the University of Lethbridge before. All of the works in this exhibition were collected by Dr. Margaret (Marmie) Perkins Hess and were gifted to the University of Lethbridge by her estate in 2017. The U of L gallery staff have been working tirelessly to catalogue and manually enter over a thousand artworks into the database, with a significant amount of it being Inuit work. Because of the breadth of the Hess donation, I had plenty of work to choose from that related to the storytelling theme, despite several recent exhibitions of Inuit prints from the Hess collection.

It was a daunting task to go through the Hess collection and select a limited amount of artwork. I was, however, immediately drawn to the Inuit prints, particularly those that used a vibrant colour palette, had intricate and detailed texture, and had a unique and compelling title. When doing further research on the works in this exhibit, I learned that many of the artists are influenced by stories that they heard while they were growing up. Capturing the story visually is an artist’s way of continuing on the storytelling tradition to teach and warn future generations. While a significant amount of the works appear charming and playful, they are actually based on dark and gruesome Inuit stories. The juxtaposition between story and artwork provokes and inspires us as viewers to think about Inuit stories and the influence that they have had on Inuit culture in the past and present.

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