Insurgence/Resurgence Winnipeg Art Gallery
Heather Campbell is one of ten artists commissioned to create new works for this landmark exhibition curated by Julie Nagam and Jaimie Isaac. We hear from the artist on how she has responded to the exhibition’s central tenets of “hope, selfdetermination, renewal and a revisioning of Canada”: Methylmercury deals with the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam currently under construction in Labrador. A study by Harvard University concluded that if the area was flooded before removing vegetation and topsoil, the resulting levels of methylmercury would contaminate the natural food supply of those living downstream, including the Inuit community of Rigolet—my hometown. In this painting, the sea goddess Nuliajuk (Sedna) symbolizes the sacred respect we have for our ocean and its creatures. As the ultimate symbol of female power in Inuit cultures across the Arctic, she unites us, no matter what region we are from. The top of the painting is covered with a black mass, containing symbols of death. A hand reaches out, grabbing Nuliajuk by the neck and forcing the poison down her throat. Here, Nuliajuk also symbolizes the ongoing violence our Indigenous women face. The red tape binding her wrists alludes to the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and the recent convictions for the murder of Nunatsiavummiut Loretta Saunders. I feel that we are on the cusp of a shift in Inuit art. For so long Inuit art and culture were used as emblems of Canadiana, but we are now reclaiming our symbols and using them to resist colonization.
Heather Campbell (b. 1973 Rigolet/Ottawa) — LEFT Methylmercury (Work in Progress) 2017 Ink on mineral paper 71.1 × 48.3 cm COURTESY THE ARTIST Geronimo Inutiq (b. 1979 Montreal) — BELOW Film stills of Ensemble/Encore 2017 Video COURTESY THE ARTIST