The days were a bit cold (-24c) for much in the way of tromping around town but fortunately the hotel was within a short walk of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). It had been many, many (and I could add several more manys) moons since I had been inside the Gallery and though the big attraction was the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition my destination were two much smaller, but to my taste, more interesting installations: Memory Unearthed: The Łódź Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross and Manasie Akpaliapik.
|On December 11, 1939 the Nazi authorities commanded that all Jews wear a Star of |
David on the front and back of their clothing. As Henryk Ross says of this photo:
Even the scarecrows were made to wear the yellow star.
The story of the Łódź Ghetto is a complex one that has given rise to books, essays and articles that tell the many sides of life in the second largest ghetto of the Nazi period but more importantly the stories of the men, women and children who lived in this devastating page of European history. I will simply say that the exhibition of Henryk Ross's photographs made me angry and it was one of those exhibitions that I left on the verge of tears. And I say that as a good reaction to a disturbing but important display of both the inhumanity of man and the resilience of mankind.*
|Manasie Akpaliapik - the Inuit artist.|
IK-PI-AR-JUK (Arctic Bay - the Pocket) Manasie Akpaliapik's birthplace on Baffin Island
is 3,300 kms north of Toronto and approximately 700 kms north of the Arctic Circle.
At the age of twelve he was sent to a Residential School. Suppression, sometimes violent, of the language (Inuktitut), the traditional culture and values of his people led him to leave school at the age of sixteen and return to Arctic Bay in 1971. He began to examine his heritage and to work on carvings that reflected life in his wider community. He married but tragically lost his wife and children in a house fire in 1980. He moved to Montreal and began to work in earnest using new techniques, varied materials and learning to refine the details of his work. He considered the links between the traditions, those legends and stories of his family, life in the North and the mounting problems of alcohol, unemployment, drugs and rootlessness experienced by the people of the Arctic. Carving became a healing process for him and a way of focusing attention on the problems of his people.
As I mentioned this exhibition was small - only twelve pieces of varying sizes - from a slender carving of a hunter riding (or perhaps being dragged by) a narwhal (left) to two large sculptures made from the ossified bone from the bases of whale skulls - I've created videos from the walk-around of these two extraordinary pieces. Amongst the other materials he uses are ivory, antler, stone, horn, baleen and stone. Unfortunately I didn't get all the information on the works on display so several of the photos have no identification as to title or materials used. An e-mail to the AGO asking for information has gone unanswered so I will have to leave some things untitled.
whale bone, ivory, bone, antler - 1995-96.
This double sided ivory carving shows the two sides of life for the Inuit: one based on the traditions of the North, the other the influences from the outside that has destroyed many of those traditions.
There is a wealth of art created by Inuit artists working in both the traditional and the modern style that deserves to be explored. This small exhibition opened my eyes to a small portion of what is out there by one artist. On my next visit to Toronto in May I plan to spend some time at the Museum of Inuit Art at Queen's Quay - an attraction I must admit I had no knowledge of until I read two short pieces on the use of whale bone in Inuit carving: I've Got a Bone to Pick and Let's Talk About Whalebone.
*I use both the terms man and mankind in their inclusive meaning and should that offend anyone then they do not know me and any flames will be extinguished immediately.
April 16 - 1910: The oldest existing indoor ice hockey arena still used for the sport in the 21st century, Boston Arena, opens for the first time.