Qaumajuq is the name for WAG Inuit art centre, new Indigenous names for spaces within

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Qaumajuq is the name for WAG Inuit art centre, new Indigenous names for spaces within
Inuit Art Centre architectural renderings. Photo: Michael Maltzan Architecture, courtesy of WAG.

WINNIPEG.- The Winnipeg Art Gallery announced that a circle of language keepers has given an Inuktitut name to what was formerly known as the Inuit Art Centre: Qaumajuq [HOW-ma-yourq], meaning “It is bright, it is lit,” which celebrates the light that flows into the new building connected to the WAG.

This naming initiative is an important step on the WAG’s Indigenization journey, as is free admission for all Indigenous Peoples to WAG-Qaumajuq starting with the landmark opening, expected to launch in February 2021. It is the first time an Indigenous naming of this kind has occurred at a major art institution in Canada.

Guided by the WAG Indigenous Advisory Circle, the historic naming responds to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Article 13 and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action 14i, both of which reference the importance of Indigenous languages.

In addition to the new building and spaces within, the circle of language keepers representing Indigenous communities across Inuit Nunangat and Treaty 1 territory endowed the WAG building with an Anishinaabemowin name: Biindigin Biwaasaeyaah [BEEN- deh-gen Bi-WAH-say-yah], meaning “Come on in, the dawn of light is here” or "the dawn of light is coming." The WAG will always be known as the Winnipeg Art Gallery, but the Biindigin Biwaasaeyaah name signifies the fundamental change that the WAG is undertaking—the dawn of light is coming, and Indigenous languages will always have a powerful presence throughout the WAG-Qaumajuq.

• With the leadership of Dr. Julie Nagam and Dr. Heather Igloliorte, co-chairs of the WAG Indigenous Advisory Circle, a group of fluent Indigenous language keepers and Elders gathered virtually to share concepts and ideas and name the Inuit art centre in their languages. The names can all be heard at

• Naming of spaces and language is specifically mentioned in UNDRIP Article 13 and TRC Call to Action 14i.

• The language keepers represent all four regions of Inuit Nunangat, including Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Nunavut, Nunavik, and Nunatsiavut. Because the building is on Treaty 1 territory, it was also important to bring Anishinaabemowin and Nêhiyawêwin speakers, as well as Dakota and Michif (Metis) speakers to the table. Winnipeg is located on the unceded territory of the Dakota people and on the homeland of the Metis Nation.

• Language keepers provided spellings based on their regional dialects, which may differ from other regional spellings and pronunciations within each language group.

• The language circle includes EJ Fontaine, Marge Roscelli, Elder Verna Demontagny, Elder Eric Robinson, Taqralik Partridge, Krista Ulujuk Zawadski, Johnny Kasudluak, Katie E. Winters, Elder Dr. Mary Courchene, Theresie Tungilik, Holly Carpenter, and Dr. Niigaan Sinclair.

• Inuktitut (Inuit), Inuvialuktun (Inuit), Anishinaabemowin (Anishinaabe/Ojibway), Nêhiyawêwin (Ininiwak/Cree), Dakota (Dakota), and Michif (Metis) are all represented.

• The WAG thanks the group for generously sharing their knowledge and time.

• Starting with the February 2021 opening, admission to the WAG-Qaumajuq is free for all Indigenous Peoples.

• Qaumajuq is the first art museum of its kind, bringing Inuit voices to the forefront, and dedicated to the art and culture of Inuit from Canada and beyond.

• Qaumajuq will innovate the art museum, taking art from object to full sensory experience with Inuit-led programming, complementing and augmenting the cutting-edge art education that the WAG offers today.

• The new 40,000-square-foot-building designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture with Cibinel Architecture will connect to the WAG on all four levels, providing stunning exhibition, learning and event spaces; a revamped shop; plus a new café on the main level in partnership with Circa Catering.

• The central feature is a Visible Vault, showcasing thousands of carvings. The public is invited to support Qaumajuq by donating, or adopting a shelf on the Visible Vault.

“Qaumajuq will be a place for learning and fun and we would not be here without the dedication and support of the WAG Indigenous Advisory Circle. The language keepers and Elders came together in a powerful moment of cross-cultural reflection and relationship-building. This initiative is an act of decolonization, supporting reconciliation and Indigenous knowledge transmission for generations to come, in an effort to ensure WAG-Qaumajuq will be a home where Indigenous communities feel welcome—where everyone feels welcome. We can’t wait to unveil this new cultural landmark in the heart of the countrywith these new names honouring Indigenous voices and languages.” —Dr. Stephen Borys, Director & CEO, Winnipeg Art Gallery

"We are excited about the transformation and naming of the WAG and the Inuit art centre, to continue the process of decolonization.We are thrilled to share the names of the spaces in the seven Indigenous languages of Manitoba and Inuit Nunangat. The Circle demonstrates the breadth of knowledge that represents the relationship to the collection and the buildings and it has been an incredible experience for all Circle members. We are so honoured to gift the institution with these new names that point to a new a path forward for galleries and museums in this country.” —Dr. Heather Igloliorte and Dr. Julie Nagam, Co-Chairs of the Indigenous Advisory Circle, Winnipeg Art Gallery

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