The Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) is celebrating the projected February 2021 opening of their Inuit Art Centre by hosting a collection of wearable works of art from Inuit history: Inuk Style, in its Mezzanine Gallery.

An architects rendering of the Qaumajuq building from the street. The building will open February 2021 and will host both the GN’s Fine Art Collection and WAG’s own collection of Inuit works of art. Michael Maltzan Architecture image courtesy of Winnepeg Art Gallery

On the morning of Oct. 28 WAG held a virtual Indigenous naming announcement for the Inuit Art Centre, unveiling the chosen Inuktitut name Qaumajuq, meaning it is bright, it is li’ in English.

“Qaumajuq will be a place where all walks of life will each be linked to the creation of Inuit art of our hardships, survival and resilience,” said Theresie Tungilik, originally from Rankin Inlet, who makes up part of the WAG Indigenous Advisory Circle.

Helping celebrate the increasing demand for Inuit fashion around the world, Inuk Style highlights fashions made from traditional materials found in Nunavut from seal and caribou skin styles to carved caribou antler beads, ivory hair combs and pins.

“Historically, many seamstresses learned from a young age to sew and to make their own clothing from caribou and seal skin. This exhibition presents a selection of pieces handcrafted with delicate care and precision using sewing skills passed down through many generations, stated WAG.

On loan from the GN Fine Art Collection, these mittens were created in 1976 by Mona Rebecca Ittiraqtaataq of Taloyoak. Lianed Marcoletta photo courtesy of the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Featuring works from the Government of Nunavut’s Fine Art Collection and the WAG’s own collection of Inuit works of art, Inuk Style brings various accessories, jewellery, beads, mitts and other fashions from Nunavut’s past and present into the spotlight.

The works come from various named artists as well as a number of different unidentified artists from Inuit history who helped develop what would become this collection of art.

Jocelyn Piirainen, the Assistant Curator of Inuit art at WAG and the curator for the Inuk Style exhibit said, “Inuit have always made our own clothing. Inuk Style celebrates the history of varying styles of clothing and jewellery and how contemporary artists are re-working traditional materials, knowledge and sewing skills to create unique pieces of wearable art.”

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