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OAG unveils larger-than-life artwork by Indigenous artist Mairi Brascoupé

June 26, 2023

Chickadees and Flowers, an exceptional work by Indigenous artist Mairi Brascoupé, has been unveiled and is on view at the Ottawa Art Gallery. The artwork is a risograph print inspired by a birch bark biting, and celebrates the unique history, beauty, and culture of the Anishinābe (Algonquin) peoples. 

With chickadees soaring amidst blossoms, the artwork symbolizes the enduring connection between Anishinābe peoples and their animal and plant relatives. By observing the resilience, adaptability, and joy of these birds in every season, one can gain insights into our relationship with the land.  

Birch bark biting, a historically significant technique, is now a rare art form, and Brascoupé’s interpretation honours the enduring traditions of Indigenous art and storytelling. The artwork serves as a testament to the deep-rooted cultural heritage of Anishinābe  and Indigenous peoples, celebrating their connections to nature and creativity.  

Chickadees and Flowers is part of a series of birch bark bitings. The banner reproduces this delicate and traditional art form and showcases Algonquin artmaking using contemporary techniques. Featuring the work on this wall tells people they are on Algonquin territory,” said Mairi Brascoupé. 

Part of the display at OAG includes the original birch bark biting by the artist, which reveals the folding technique of the art form. “There is always a surprise element when unfolding birch bark biting. And when you open it, you also reveal the work of the Creator, which you have to interpret too.” 

The launch took place in OAG’s Mackenzie entrance lobby. Speakers and guests included Anita Tenasco (Director of Education for Kitigan Zibi Anishinābeg, an Algonquin community located about 140 km north of the Ottawa area) and Jenny Tenasco, a Knowledge Keeper and residential school survivor from Kitigan Zibi, who shared words and a prayer in Anishinābemowin. Claire Brascoupé, the artist’s sister, performed an honour song for the occasion.  

“Today is a proud day for all of us. Our history is present in all of this work and our world view is present in all of this work,” shared Anita Tenasco. 

A captivating artwork and fusion of traditional techniques and contemporary artistic vision, Chickadees and Flowers is on display on the exterior of the Ottawa Art Gallery, near 50 Mackenzie King Bridge. 

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