The sculptures, which stand on the eastern side of Aboriginal House, were crafted by prominent Aboriginal artists Miguel Joyal, Abraham Anghik Ruben and Wayne Stranger, a graduate of the U of M’s Fine Arts program.
“Our campus is artistically and culturally richer with the inclusion of these wonderful sculptures,” says University of Manitoba president David Barnard. “We applaud the artists for their outstanding work and thank them for providing ever-present reminders of our country’s rich cultural heritage.”
Kali Storm, director of the Aboriginal Student Centre, echoes these sentiments, adding that, as she sees it, one of the key inspirations for commissioning three sculptures to honour Aboriginal peoples was to help Indigenize the university community.
“The statues are symbolic of the Métis, First Nations and Inuit communities who call this place home. Not only do they depict how we value education, they add to the beauty and spirit of the building that we lovingly acknowledge as Migisii Agamik,” says Storm. “We have a strong and vibrant Aboriginal community here on campus and the energy of these statues welcome all who want to learn, teach and share here.”
Joyal is a Winnipeg-born Métis artist best known for his 17-foot bronze sculpture of Louis Riel on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Building. Manitoba’s founding father is again Joyal’s subject for his sculpture at the University of Manitoba.
“It’s a portrait of Louis Riel the scholar learning the ‘laws of the land’, which eventually led to the drafting of The Manitoba Act. It is a tribute to our forbearers whose vision, commitment and personal sacrifice shaped the province and brought about many of the political, social and economic benefits that we enjoy today,” says Joyal.
Stranger is an artist, musician and educator of Cree and Ojibway descent who describes his sculpture, The Buffalo, as reflecting:
“the nature of what it is to learn. ‘Ki- ken-das-o-win’, meaning knowledge or the accumulation of knowledge, must be acquired with discipline out of respect for the ways of the Elders and teachers, and how teaching and learning occurred in our past as First Nations.”
Ruben is an Inuvialuit artist residing in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia, who has spent the last 30 years developing his craft with a focus on the arts and cultural traditions of his Inuit background.
“The base of the sculpture is a Shaman on one knee, holding up a boy flanked by a bear and a raven. Around them are muskox, wolves, whale and walrus. This part of the sculpture deals with the Inuit of the Western Arctic and their specific story, while the upper part of the Shaman and Sedna deals with Inuit culture as a whole – two key representations of Inuit culture,” he explains.
A special event was held on April 4, 2011 to celebrate the sculptures. Special guests included: the artists, Miguel Joyal, Wayne Stranger and Abraham Ruben; David Barnard, president of the University of Manitoba; Ron Evans, Grand Chief for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC); Levinia Brown, Inuit Elder; Leah LaPlante, Vice President of the Southwest Region, Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF); and Kali Storm, director of the U of M’s Aboriginal Student Centre.
For more information, please contact Kali Storm, Aboriginal Student Centre director, University of Manitoba, 204-474-8850, [email protected].
Or, Michael Marshall, communications officer, Public Affairs, University of Manitoba, 204-474-7962, [email protected].