Nunatsiavut artist creates Inuit motif for new series of Indigenous pieces

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Jason Sikoak, shortly after seeing the play he designed for the very first time. (Submitted by Jason Sikoak)

Laughing artist Jason Sikoak is among the first to see his work showcased as part of a new series of coins made by the Royal Canadian Mint to celebrate Indigenous stories.

Sikoak says he was shocked to learn that he had been selected to have his work shown as part of the series titled Generations.

In fact, when he got the email inviting him to apply to be part of the series, he thought it was spam.

“I read the little preview headline” We reached out to Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and they gave us your information, so I was like “Okay, this usually doesn’t appear in a spam email, so I want to read it. ‘ve opened “.

The series of plays is intended to celebrate how, by passing on Indigenous legends and myths, one generation sets an example for the next.

The first in the series tells the legend of the Sea Goddess. The Sea Goddess, known to Sikoak as Sedna, has different names throughout Inuit Nunangat – the Inuit homeland – and details of the legend vary across the region.

“She was married to Raven and things didn’t go well, so she contacted her dad to come and take her home … Raven got mad and created a storm and the dad that is. went to get her knew what was going on. So in order to save himself, he threw Sedna to the side of the boat and the storm subsided, “Sikoak said, recounting the version of the legend he grew up with.

“But then, when she latched onto the side of the kayak, Raven made the storm happen again, and at that point, fearing for her own life, her father cut off her fingers and she fell into the ocean. , then his fingers become the marine mammals. “

The legend goes on to say that when hunting is rare, it is because Sedna is upset that her hair is unkempt and that she has trapped all the marine mammals in her hair. In order for Sedna to set the animals free, a ceremony must be performed and an angakkuk – someone with spiritual powers – must comb and braid her hair to soothe her.

Once this act is done, Sedna will free the animals from her hair and they will be numerous again.

Sikoak said he had always drawn his versions of Sedna as a way to “reconnect with the past and history that have been lost to [him] over the years due to colonialism. Despite this, Sikoak said the people of Nunatsiavut are trying to reclaim their histories and identities.

“A long-term goal”

Not all artists care about having their works displayed on a coin, but for Sikoak, it has been a dream since 1999, when Nunavut became an official territory. To mark the occasion, the Royal Canadian Mint released a coin that featured a drawing of a drum dancer by Germaine Arnaktauyok.

“I remember seeing this for the first time, a long time ago. And the Nunavut accord gave me hope for the Labrador Inuit land claims agreement at the time. … The art represented by the Royal Canadian Mint, ”he said.

In this design, Jason Sikoak portrayed Sedna with a seal body and fin as her lower half with seals coming from her dismembered fingers as she squeezed her braided hair in the other hand. (Submitted by Jason Sikoak)

Sikoak was finally able to achieve this goal with this new series from the Royal Canadian Mint. The series will consist of three coins issued over three years, including that of Sikoak, which will represent an Inuit, Métis and Indigenous legend.

The Royal Canadian Mint has worked with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami to find Inuit artists and will work with the Assembly of First Nations and the Métis National Council to identify Indigenous artists to approach to participate in the series.

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