• Feature

How the Qaumajuq Boardwalk Mural Helped to Connect Inuit in Winnipeg

Saniraq: Inuit Muralists Bring Colour to the North

Feb 24, 2021
by Napatsi Folger

From the Chauvet Cave of Southern France to the internationally renowned art of Banksy, humans have been creating murals for over 30,000 years. In this Portfolio we celebrate the colourful murals of five Inuit artists across Canada.
Between Spring 2018 and Spring 2020, Winnipegers walking along Memorial Boulevard and St. Mary Avenue were dazzled by the unexpected sight of an Arctic underwater scene, spanning the length of the pedestrian walkway and signalling the future home of Qaumajuq, the Inuit art centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) in Manitoba. Emerging artist Kailey Sheppard has spent most of her life in Winnipeg, where she saw the Insurgence/ Resurgence (2017-18) exhibition at the gallery and was inspired to reach out to staff in the hopes that she could participate in any Inuit arts initiatives available. Having spent only a few years in her father’s community of Postville, Nunatsiavut, NL, the artist commented that, “it was the first time I’d really seen Inuit art being represented.” Sheppard wanted to be a part of it. 

During the planning of the new centre, Sheppard was commissioned to produce a temporary mural on the boardwalk abutting the Qaumajuq site. For the piece, Sheppard sought to depict important cultural imagery and themes while maintaining her distinctive artistic style that favours bold lines and colours. 

Here we see the cool tones and colour blocking that create a gorgeous sense of movement and flow, complete with seals and other sea creatures that are so essential to Inuit culture. For the artist, the feedback from the local Inuit community upon the completion of her mural was paramount in her feeling more connected with other Inuit and consequently linked to her roots in a larger urban centre. Sheppard admitted that, “there was a time where I felt like I was the only one.” But after working on the mural and visiting the Manitoba Inuit Association she realized, “there’s more of us in the city than I originally thought.” Many urban Inuit experience that kind of cultural isolation in cities, and mural art showing our culture can bring a sense of home and tog

This Feature was originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly.

Learn More About INUA and Qaumajuq

Find More Inuit Muralists Bringing Colour to the North

Sheree McLeod
Charlotte Karetak