Nunatsiavut-based Davidee Ningeok is not afraid to confront difficult histories: case in point is his 2015 work Residential School Nightmare, now touring nationally as part of the survey exhibition SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut. The work unflinchingly portrays a moment of corporal punishment, the student’s outstretched hands awaiting the sting of the instructor’s paddle, rendered like the open book between them in opaque milky bone. Ningeok has exaggerated his figures, etching the details of their faces and clothing into their solid forms. The piece is a direct response to the Canadian government’s 2008 apology to residential school victims, which as the artist explains excluded Inuit and Innu from Newfoundland and Labrador, whom the government claimed attended institutions that weren’t created under The Indian Act and therefore weren’t true residential schools. “I felt that really wasn’t right,” says Ningeok. “I wanted to put something out there so Labrador Inuit could be recognized, so they could be apologized to also.”
The artist began carving in his teens after watching others, first in Hopedale and later in Postville, which the artist now calls home.
Over the ensuing years, he honed his technique—most identifiable through his contrasting of chalky etching and lusciously polished stone—and narrowed in on his preferred subject matter. An astute observer of history, Ningeok focuses on producing work that captures “the importance of the past”, whether through community-based narratives, such as in When a Wolf Became a Husky (2015), or a planned piece on the effects of colonization, including the Spanish
Flu, on coastal Labrador. “I want to make work that gets people thinking,” the artist states. “Because if a picture is worth a thousand words, a carving is probably worth ten thousand.”
2 1 Davidee Ningeok (b. 1982 Postville) Residential School Nightmare 2015 Serpentinite and bone 26 x 35.6 x 25.4 cm Photo The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery 2 Davidee Ningeok When a Wolf Became a Husky 2015 Steatite and caribou bone 30.5 x 15.2 x...
3 3 Ningeok carving outside in Postville, 2016 Photo Camille Usher