A striking figure at the corner of St. Mary Avenue and Memorial Boulevard will welcome visitors and school groups into Qaumajuq, the Inuit art centre, when it opens at the Winnipeg Art Gallery later this year.
Tuniigusiia/The Gift, a new, outdoor sculpture carved by Inuit artist Goota Ashoona, was comissioned by the Manitoba Teachers’ Society "to honour teachers all around us — in the land and in our lives — who reveal the truth, wisdom and beauty that connect us all," according to a news release from the WAG.
"Teachers have always played an incredible role in our communities and this has been brought into further focus in this difficult time," said Stephen Borys, director and CEO of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, in the release.
"This beautiful sculpture by Goota Ashoona captures and pays tribute to teachers’ contributions. We thank the Manitoba Teachers’ Society for this legacy gift — for their heartfelt support — and we thank all teachers for the work they do every day."
Born in 1967 in Kinngait, Nunavut, Ashoona is a third-generation Inuit artist, the daughter of artist Kiawak Ashoona and granddaughter of printmaker Pitseolak Ashoona. Ashoona carves primarily from soapstone and whale bone, working out of her Ashoona Studios in Elie, Man. Her art can be found in the WAG’s permanent collection.
Carved from Verde Guatemala marble, Tuniigusiia/The Gift depicts a daughter being taught how to throat sing by her mother (Ashoona herself is a throat singer). Their faces are framed by the arching body of Sedna, the mermaid goddess of the sea and marine animals. The sculpture illustrates the power of storytelling, the passing of knowledge between generations, and the many forms teachers come in.
Tuniigusiia/The Gift will be a permanent feature in Qaumajuq’s outdoor plaza, recently named Nutaaq Tummaqtuyuq, which is Inuvialuktun for "big steps forward."
Ashoona believes the sculpture, which stands at over seven feet tall, may be one of the largest Inuit sculptures in the world, according to a recent feature on the artist in Inuit Art Quarterly.
Despite not being open yet, the 40,000 square-foot Qaumajuq, which means "it is bright, it is lit" in Inuktitut, was recently chosen as one of the 21 places to visit in 2021 by Condé Nast Traveller magazine.