Jessie Oonark

Inuit Art Quarterly - - CONTENTS -

Some 14 years af­ter the Cana­dian flag made its of­fi­cial de­but in 1965, this work, cre­ated in the twi­light of the pro­lific ca­reer of Jessie Oonark, OC, RCA (1906–1985), reimag­ines the ubiq­ui­tous red-and-white maple leaf as back­ground to a sim­ple line-drawn fig­u­ra­tive por­trait. The deep red of the na­tional en­sign is swapped for a rich cerulean blue, while the out­er­most edges are trimmed in a vi­brant yel­low. Twenty years be­fore the of­fi­cial cre­ation of the ter­ri­tory of Nu­navut and its dis­tinc­tive flag, the artist pre­sciently cap­tured the pal­ette meant to rep­re­sent the riches of the land, sea and sky. The re­sult is a play­fully sub­ver­sive re­ori­ent­ing of the Cana­dian ex­pe­ri­ence, cast­ing an Inuk, framed in del­i­cate rose pink, as the cen­tral char­ac­ter. In this work, Oonark’s clear and pur­pose­ful line re­minds us of the orig­i­nal in­hab­i­tants of this place, the “true North strong and free”.

Jessie Oonark (1906–1985 Qa­mani’tuaq) — Inuk Flag c. 1979 Coloured pen­cil 38.2 × 56.5 cm NA­TIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA © PUB­LIC TRUSTEE OF NU­NAVUT. ES­TATE OF JESSIE OONARK

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