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Arrival of Strangers - The Last 500 Years


Art as an Expression of the Group

After World War II, Inuit were slowly encouraged to leave their nomadic lifestyle and settle in small communities around the Hudson's Bay Company posts scattered across the Central Arctic. Attempting to integrate Inuit into Canada's cash economy, the federal government set up arts and crafts centres where they could learn new skills or continue carving, using local stone. Inuit sculpture was quickly accepted in southern Canada and internationally. While men preferred carving, women often took up drawing and textile arts, such as weaving and felt appliqué combined with embroidery. Starting as an economic necessity, Inuit art developed into a powerful tool for conserving Inuit cultural identity in a time of accelerating change.

Expo 67, a turning point in the history of Aboriginal artistic expression, provided the first opportunity for Aboriginal people from all parts of Canada to work on a project designed and realized entirely by them.

For the tipi-shaped Indians of Canada Pavilion, artists from different cultures created murals blending Western technique with Aboriginal ideas and concepts. Norval Morrisseau's Earth Mother and her Children was a contemporary statement in a style inspired by ancient pictographic traditions. Alex Janvier's The Unpredictable East contained a political message.

An explosion of creativity among Aboriginal artists across Canada followed Expo 67. Artists inspired by oral history and traditional crafts made art an important vehicle for cultural affirmation.

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