June 21, 2020 | UNB

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College of Extended Learning

National Indigenous Peoples Day

On Sunday, June 21, the UNB Art Centre marked National Indigenous Peoples Day by paying homage to the late Roger Simon and featuring his work We Stand On Guard For Thee (1999).

Roger Simon honours the traditions of his ancestors and the history of his people but brings a contemporary edge to his message. His paintings often present symbols of culture, not only of his own people but of his country as well. Their meanings continue to resonate as Canada struggles to face a shameful history with the legacy of Residential Schools, displacement, segregation, violence, and systemic racism.

In solidarity with the indigenous communities that continue to suffer the effects of this legacy, evident in recent events at Metepenagiag First Nation and Edmundston, New Brunswick, each Sunday, during the month of July, the UNB Art Centre will feature a work by one of Canada’s First Nations artists from the collection of the University of New Brunswick.

Roger Simon

Artwork by Roger Simon

We Stand On Guard For Thee, 1999
Oil on board
75.5 x 75.5 cm
UNB Permanent Collection

To mark National Indigenous Peoples Day, the UNB Art Centre pays homage to the late Roger Simon. To honour his memory and mark this moment in our history, for the month of July 2020, each Sunday, the UNB Art Centre will feature work by one of Canada’s First Nations artists from the collection of the University of New Brunswick.


Roger Simon was born in 1954 to a large family from Elsipotog First Nation, New Brunswick. He studied at George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario from 1974-1977 at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design from 1981-1983. In 1994, he was commissioned to produce six paintings of ancient Metepenagiag through Heritage Canada’s Access to Archaeology program. In 1995, Simon's painting First Car on the Rez, (1993), was selected for a permanent display of First Nations art at the Canadian Embassy in Moscow as part of Canada's Foreign Affairs and International Trade's Fine Art Program. In 2013, Simon's work The Canadian was selected by the National Capital Commission for the Aboriginal Expressions series of Confederation Boulevard banners in Ottawa. He has painted many murals in First Nations organizations, as well as at the Miramichi Hospital and at the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs in Toronto.

His work has been exhibited widely throughout the region including shows at The Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Dalhousie University Art Gallery, Université de Moncton, the Mi'kmaq Wolastoqey Centre at the University of New Brunswick, St. Thomas University and the University of Saskatchewan in Regina. His works are in many private collections but also in the public collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada as well as at the University of New Brunswick.

Tragically, Roger Simon passed away in 2000 at the age of 46. In January 2011, the Klu'Skap Gallery in Moncton mounted a large memorial exhibition to celebrate the Mi'kmaq painter's life and work.

Roger Simon honours the traditions of his ancestors and the history of his people but brings a contemporary edge to his message. His paintings often present symbols of culture, not only of his own people but of his country as well. Their meanings continue to resonate as Canada currently struggles to face a shameful history and the legacy of Residential Schools, displacement, segregation, violence and systemic racism.


Lucy Qinnuayauk

Artwork by Lucy Qinnuayauk

Birds Startled by Spirit, 1965
Stonecut print on paper
60.0 x 84.3 cm

Lucy Qinnuayuak was a celebrated Inuit artist who lived and worked in Kinngait, Nunavut (formerly known as Cape Dorset) on Baffin Island. Qinnuayuak was born in Salluit, Quebec, and moved to Kinngait as a child, living a traditional way of life with her family. Qinnuayuak began drawing in the late 1950s and bird themes became a common motif. From the 1960s onwards, Qinnuayuak began converting her drawings into prints; and while the original drawings are lost, they are known to us through these prints. She lived and worked in Kinngait until her death in 1982. Today, Kinngait is known as the "Capital of Inuit Art," and Canada’s most artistic community, with as much as 22% of the hamlet’s population employed in graphic arts and sculpture. Qinnuayuak is considered a pioneer of traditional Inuit printmaking.

Qinnuayuak’s work has been shown extensively since the 1960s and in 1989 the Arctic Artistry Gallery in New York City hosted a memorial exhibition entitled Birds and Flowers: Eskimo Graphics by Lucy Quinnuayuak. In 1976, one of her designs was selected for a banner at the Summer Olympics in Montreal. Her work can be seen at the Kenoyuak Centre and Print Shop, a gallery and studio located in Kinngait, which opened in 2018 to showcase and foster Inuit art in the area. Her work is held in public and private institutions nationally and internationally, including at the Canadian Museum of History, the National Gallery of Canada, the Edmonton Art Gallery, the MacDonald Stewart Art Centre, the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver and the Tate Gallery in London, England as well as the UNB Permanent Collection. The work that appears in today’s feature was a gift from the collection of Mrs. Murray A. Vaughan, (Marguerite Pillow) wife of New Brunswick-born art philanthropist, Murray Vaughan.


Alan Syliboy

Artwork by Alan Syliboy

Moose Under Red Star
Serigraph on Paper, 200/200
35.5 x 45.6 cm

Alan Syliboy is an acclaimed Mi'kmaq artist, writer, and musician from the Millbrook First Nation community in Nova Scotia. He began drawing at an early age and met Shirley Bear in 1970 when he was in his late teens. At that time, Shirley Bear was travelling to indigenous communities throughout the Maritimes recruiting young people for an art program she was teaching in New Hampshire.* She had heard about Syliboy and invited him to become part of a three-month art training course. It was Shirley Bear who taught him to paint and it is she that he credits with awakening in him his greater artistic spirit. She introduced him to the petroglyphs of the Mi'kmaq, Wolastoqey and Passamaquoddy people which continue to inspire him as a "gateway" to his culture. He later studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax.

Throughout his artistic career, Alan Syliboy has been involved in a range of artistic media and projects. In 1999 he designed a limited-edition golden coin for the Canada Mint Native Cultures and Traditions series, dubbed "The Butterfly." Syliboy has been recognized for his work and his contributions to the community on many occasions but was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002.

In 2007, Syliboy began working on an illustrated novel, The Stone Canoe: Two Lost Mi'kmaq Tales, based on a traditional Mi'kmaq legend. Syliboy continued his work on this project and collaborated with Nance Ackerman and Paton Francis to write, produce and direct an animated short film entitled, Little Thunder. This film was created for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games and went on to show at over 40 festivals. In that year Syliboy was also shortlisted for the Lieutenant Governor's Masterworks Art Award for People of the Dawn, a series of 12 - 4x8 paintings commissioned for the 2010 Olympics. In 2013, he created the multimedia installation, The Thundermaker, at The Beaverbrook Art Gallery and the book of the same title was subsequently shortlisted for the prestigious First Nation Communities Read selection in 2016-2017 and in 2017 won the Reveal Indigenous Art Award Winnipeg prize.

St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, NS, awarded Syliboy with an honorary doctorate degree for his work and for his contributions to the university's community in 2017 and, in 2018, Dalhousie University in Halifax commissioned Syliboy to re-design the Ceremonial Mace used for convocation to reflect the presence of the first peoples in the region.

Alan Syliboy has been a recipient of Canada Council grants for his work and has also served as a juror for that funding body as well as for the National Aboriginal Achievements Foundation, the New Brunswick Arts Council (now ArtsNB), and the New Brunswick Art Bank. He has been on culture and trade delegations with the Federal and Provincial governments to France, Germany and Japan. Most recently, Syliboy has toured the United States and Atlantic Canada for book signings and with his indigenous music group, The Thundermakers.

Syliboy has exhibited throughout the Maritime region and his work can be found in private and public collections across Canada, including the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Mount Allison University and the University of New Brunswick. The work featured here was from the exhibition Alan Syliboy: Designs from Nature held at the UNB Art Centre in 1994. Alan Syliboy makes his home in Truro, Nova Scotia.

*Shirley Bear is a prominent artist, writer and activist from the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick. She is an advocate for indigenous women, culture and language. She was named to the order of Canada in 2011. UNB’s Mi'kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre holds The Birth of Mulsonses, a watercolour painting by this highly respected New Brunswick artist.


Lance Belanger

Artwork by Lance Belanger

Untitled, 1994
Conte on Arches paper
55.9 x 81.3 cm

Lance Belanger is a Wolastoqey artist whose career has spanned almost four decades. Now living in Vancouver, BC, Belanger is originally from Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick and is the son of the well- known activist and artist, Shirley Bear. He was among the first generation of young aboriginal artists interested in reclaiming the native experience from the margins and positioning it within the broader dialogue of identity politics. His work critiques dominant culture and questions the boundaries imposed by Western art traditions and its institutions. He has been engaged in the problem of (re)creating a specifically Native aesthetic vocabulary derived from the history of his people and in more recent years his work has grappled with the concepts of place and memory.

Several events in the late 1980s-early 1990s were important catalysts in bringing native issues and rights to the forefront of Canadian consciousness. In 1988, the controversial exhibition Spirit Sings mounted by the Glenbow Museum and organized for the Calgary Olympics was boycotted by the Lubicon First Nation in protest over land claims with Shell Oil, a major sponsor of the exhibit. As well, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake filed a lawsuit requesting the removal and return of "cultural artifacts" on display in the exhibit charging that they were sacred objects stolen from living cultures.

In 1990, the land dispute known as the Oka Crisis between the Anishinaabe or "Mohawk Warriors" and the Canadian Government resulted in an armed standoff that lasted for 78 days. This galvanized public opinion by putting Canada's historic treatment of first nations on the front page of every national newspaper. As well, two exhibits opened in the nation's capital in 1992 marking the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of America. Land Spirit Power at the National Gallery of Canada and Indegena: Contemporary Perspectives at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of History) curated by Gerald MacMaster and Lee-Ann Martin. However, these exhibits which attempted to avoid the pitfalls experienced by the Glenbow Museum and enlisted indigenous curators to present a survey of aboriginal art in Canada were not without their critics and detractors.

Nonetheless, Indegena brought Belanger's work to national attention. Two mixed media installations Taino Memorial and Lithic Spheres were included. These works critiqued the genocide of the indigenous Taino people of the Caribbean after Contact. In 1993, he displayed Neolithic Tango (curated by Carol Podedworny and organized by the Mercer Union in Toronto) at Gallery Connexion (now Connexion ARC) which featured an installation of gilded lithic spheres referencing the enigmatic stone spheres found at Taino burial sites.

In 1998, Lance Belanger began his long-standing collaboration with artist Kitty Mykka* and together they have explored the relationship between the original peoples and the land in a series of site-specific works across North and Central America, Europe and North Africa.

In 2002, they trekked across the northern Sahara Desert producing ephemeral works along the Moroccan- Algerian border. In 2004, they were selected as part of a national sculpture competition sponsored by Parks Canada celebrating the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain's arrival in the New World in 1604. Artworks were displayed on St. Croix Island, the first French settlement, now an international historic site. In 2010, they participated in a residency with The Beaverbrook Art Gallery which culminated in an exhibit held in 2012 celebrating the Wolastoq River. In the exhibit entitled River Cantatas, Belanger and Mykka traced the physical path of the river, enacting rituals of reclamation and reinterpreting the history from an indigenous perspective. In 2014, they produced the installation Second Nature for the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario and, in 2016, they created Forest Mantra in Darmstadt Germany.

Belanger has shown his work in Germany, Cuba, Chili, the United States, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Italy, and the Dominican Republic. In Canada he has been part of many group and solo exhibits at the Ottawa Art Gallery, SAW Gallery, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Emily Carr Institute, St. Norbert's Arts and Culture Centre in Winnipeg, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Oakville Art Gallery, as well as at Mercer Union in Toronto. His work is currently housed in public and private collections worldwide, from the Canadian Museum of History to the University of New Brunswick's Permanent Collection. The work showcased here is part of a series of drawings produced by Belanger and include vestigial references to the lithic spheres of the Taino.

*Kitty Mykka was born in 1949 and has been exhibiting nationally and internationally since 1980 including Mexico, Germany, Guatemala, Nigeria, Kenya, Chili and the United States. In Canada she has participated in many solo and group exhibits in such respected institutions as the Walter Phillips Gallery in Banff, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and Articule in Montreal. Locally she has exhibited at the Struts Gallery in Sackville, Galerie Sans Nom in Moncton, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton and Dalhousie Art Gallery in Halifax.

In addition to her art practise, Kitty Mykka has been an active arts educator and taught at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver from 1982-2002. She has been a Visiting Artist in many international educational and cultural centres including the Nairobi Cultural Centre, University of Mexico, University of Crete and the University of Ife in Nigeria. She has also participated in a number of residencies in North America including at the Savannah School of Art, Arizona State University, the Atlin Centre in BC, the St. Norbert’s Art and Cultural Centre in Winnipeg as well as at the Owens Art Gallery in Sackville and The Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton.


Hannah Kigusiuq

Artwork by Hannah Kigusiuq

Revelations, 1985
Stonecut on Rice Paper 15/50
41.0 x 63.0 cm</h4

Hannah Kigusiuq was an Inuit artist known for her drawings and prints of the traditional life of the people and the animals that inhabit the Arctic. Born in Hanningajuq (Gary Lake), Nunavut, in 1931 she lived a traditional life hunting game and following the seasonal migrations. In 1956 her husband contracted tuberculosis and she moved to Qamani'tuaq (Baker Lake), Nunavut, in order to be closer to him while he underwent treatment. It was during his long absence and convalescence that she was encouraged to draw and ultimately the prints and drawings she produced became an important source of income.

Kigusiuq draws inspiration for her art from her experience living on the land as a young woman, and she typically depicts communal activities from traditional Inuit lifestyle. Winter camp scenes, groups travelling on the land by foot or dog team and Inuit celebrating traditional drum dances are among her favored subjects, though Kigusiuq occasionally illustrates episodes from traditional Inuit mythology and from the Christian Bible as well. She is best known for her carefully controlled graphite pencil line drawings in which she situates large numbers of people and animals in complex relationships with one another frequently adding Inuktitut syllabic notations to clarify her intent or to present conversation among individuals. She rarely incorporates colour, preferring instead the clarity of carefully-drawn line.1

Her work has been featured in a number of publications including Inuit Art Quarterly, Contemporary Innuit Drawings (1987) Qamanittuaq/Where the River Widens: Drawings by Baker Lake Artists (1995), and Hannah Kigusiuq (1995) by Marion E. Jackson.

Kigusiuq has exhibited in a number of galleries since 1985 including the Art Gallery of Guelph, Canadian Arctic Producers, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Frye Art Museum in Seattle, Marion Scott Gallery in Vancouver, Inuit Gallery of Vancouver, Sanavik Co-operative Association and the Muscarelle Museum of Art in Virginia.

Kigusiuq's prints and drawings are found in the public collections of the Canada Art Council, the National Gallery of Canada, the Inuit Cultural Centre and the Canadian Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs as well as at the Art Gallery of Guelph, Art Gallery of Alberta and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Forth Worth Texas as well as at the University of New Brunswick.

1 Marion E. Jackson in "North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary", 1995. http://huckleberryland.ca/swg_splash/index.html

Pitseolak Ashoona

Artwork by Pitseolak Ashoona

Caribou at Play, 1980
Stonecut and Stencil, 17/50
60.0 x 75.0 cm
Gift of Mrs. A. Murray Vaughan

Pitseolak Ashoona, or Pitseolak, whose name means "sea pigeon" in Inuktitut, was a prolific Inuk artist. Born on Tujjaat (Nottingham Island), Nunavut around 1904, Pitseolak lived a traditional way of life until her husband’s death which prompted her to move from the interior of Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island) to Kinngait (Cape Dorset). Kinngait was first a whaling port and then a trading post as the Hudson Bay Company (1913) and later the Baffin Trading Company established operations in response to an increased demand for fur in Europe. The settlement continued to grow as more people left their nomadic lifestyle as a result of dwindling caribou herds and government resettlement programs.

Pitseolak was encouraged to begin drawing for the print studio of the Kinngait Co-operative (formerly the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative) as a way to generate an income to support herself and her large family. She, along with Kananginak Pootoogook, were among the first generation of Inuit artists to adopt printmaking and create images that reflect the traditional way of life. Throughout her long career, Pitseolak completed over 7,000 drawings of which more than 200 have been made into prints.

The Kinngait Cooperative was established in 1959 and the development and commodification of Inuit art can be attributed to Canadian artist James Houston. "Saumik" or left-handed one, as he was known, studied painting at the Ontario College of Art (now OCADU) and later printmaking in Japan. Heavily influenced by the Group of Seven and in search of pristine wilderness he travelled to North where he was given a small sculpture of a deer by a local carver. He acquired others and brought them back to Montreal where they sold immediately. He became an officer of the Canadian Handicrafts Guild and made several trips searching for these exotic pieces which were very much in demand in the South. In the early 1950s, he was posted in Kinngait as a Federal Service Officer and began to encourage carving and printmaking among the local people. The Kinngait Co-operative encouraged skill development as well as economic sustainability.

Throughout her 25 year association, Pitseolak became a major contributor to the development of printmaking in Kinngait and she became a well-known artist with the Kinngait Co-operative. Her work has been exhibited throughout the world including include the Hastings-on-Hudson Gallery in New York, the Galerie de France in Paris, Gimpel Fils in London as well as in Sweden and Italy. In 1975, Pitseolak had a major solo retrospective exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., which toured across the US and Canada.

In 1971, historian and biographer Dorothy Harley Eber published a book on Pitseolak, titled Pitseolak: Story of my Life. The biography was later adapted into a film produced by the National Film Board, which Pitseolak herself narrated. She was elected to the Canadian Academy of Art in 1974 and awarded the Order of Canada in 1977 for her contributions to Inuit arts and culture. In 1993, the Canada Post Corporation produced a stamp featuring a portrait of Pitseolak by Heather J. Cooper in commemoration of International Women’s Day.

Pitseolak’s works are highly valued and can be found in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Canadian Museum of Civilization as well as in the UNB Permanent Collection. The work that appears in today’s feature was a gift from the collection of Mrs. Murray A. Vaughan, (Marguerite Pillow) wife of New Brunswick-born art philanthropist, Murray Vaughan.


The UNB Art Centre galleries at Memorial Hall on the UNB campus are currently closed until further notice as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.  Please follow our exhibits and programs online.

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