Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

November 18, 2000 - Issue 23


Inuit Art Finds Home

by Charlie Fidelman The Montreal Gazette

A $2-million collection of Inuit sculptures, prints and cultural artifacts is to finally see the light of day in an unusual display after being kept in a warehouse for nearly 20 years.

Slated to open in a bank in Old Montreal this spring, the exhibit will feature works recovered from the federal government by the Inuit of Nunavik after the 1975 James Bay agreement.

The collection lay untouched until a venue could be found, explained Robert Watt, head of the Avataq Cultural Institute, which has been mandated since 1980 to promote Inuit language and culture.

"It's been 10 years that Avataq has struggled to show the richness of our culture," Watt told a crowd that included bank officials, Inuit elders and city representatives yesterday.

"We're very, very happy. This will help our whole community."

Yesterday, the institute struck a partnership with the Royal Bank of Canada to get the works shown in the bank's former head office, a designated historic site on St. Jacques St. W.

"Many of our cultural artifacts are housed in the finest museums around the world," Watt said in Inuit (with simultaneous English and French translations) after a performance of traditional throat-singing and dancing.

"The difference with this exhibition is that it will be organized by the Inuit of Nunavik themselves," he said.

"We're so pleased to be able to stand here today among friends," Watt continued, and then thanked Montreal Mayor Pierre Bourque for his interest. "Your presence here shows you have respect for Inuit culture."

Bank officials said they are proud to sponsor the exhibit.

"We think it's a worthy cause," said Royal Bank vice-president Marty Bloom.

Repossessed from the federal Department of Indian Affairs, the collection contains more than 1,000 artifacts dating from the 1950s, including soapstone sculptures, bows made of caribou bones, traditional clothing, prints depicting ice-fishing and hunting, and a wooden violin with ivory pegs.

While the spring exhibit will not contain the entire collection, it will have a specific theme, Watt said, one that will provide a taste of the unique culture from each of 14 Nunavik communities.



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