"I have been very fortunate to be mentored by Indigenous artists, colleagues and friends over the last twenty-five years. Their mentorship has shaped my work as a cultural ally, and I cherish their continued guidance navigating urgent issues of Indigenous rights, truth and reconciliation, and the collective necessity of land stewardship in climate change.
Onondaga artist, Jeff Thomas, was the first to teach me about rethinking Canadian cultural heritage from an Indigenous perspective. Inuk art historian, Dr. Heather Igloliorte, has taken this forward to reveal why Inuit art produced for a southern market is “one of the ‘interventions’ that has fostered and safeguarded Inuit culture in the face of numerous affronts to our sovereignty.” Igloliorte and my York University colleagues – Dr. Susan Dion in Education and Angela Norwood in Design – are among my vital co-investigators and collaborators for the SSHRC Partnership grant, Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage. As the Principal Investigator of “MICH” over the last 7 years I have had the privilege to conduct collaborative research on the contribution of Inuit visual culture, art, and performance to Inuit language preservation, social well-being, and cultural identity. Taqralik Partridge, a multi-media artist and author, shared with me the importance of puigurtailigit – don’t forget. My goal continues to be to amplify the practice of core cultural values by circumpolar Indigenous artists and performers.
Ahqahizu, the monumental sculpture in front of York Lions stadium, is a permanent reminder that cultural health is the core element of Inuit Traditional Knowledge, and is the basis for every other kind of health because in it resides a sense of identity, collective social supports for individuals, and the sense of belonging grounded in positive relationships that nurture individuals and communities now and for future generations. The seal feast held last summer at the opening of Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak at the Art Gallery of Ontario was another triumph of Inuit cultural expression. The question I want to pose to all Canadians: Is putting cultural health first a radical act of decolonization not just for Inuit but for all of Canada?"
Professor Anna V. Hudson
Department of Visual Art & Art History
Director, Graduate Program in Art History
Tier 2: York Research Chair