Culture Clash

Annie Pootoogook captures Canada’s north-south divide

By David Balzer
June 27, 2006
Mother Falling with Child. Courtesy Power Plant/Fehely Fine Arts.

Mother Falling with Child

Pootoogook’s preference for the recondite is not as apparent in her autobiographical forays, astounding considering the hardships she’s undergone: among other things, her parents battled alcoholism, and she weathered an abusive relationship as an adult. Campbell lauds Pootoogook’s brave, direct handling of such experiences. This drawing records Pootoogook’s split from her partner, who is trying to take her child away from her; the abduction, as seen through the mother’s amautik (hood), seems like a sinister rebirth. Squiggly lines above the figures’ heads are obvious signs of distress; they persist in Pootoogook’s work, for instance in Man Trying to Think, and in Hanging, her stirring impression of a friend’s attempted suicide.

Pootoogook treads similar ground here as her ancestors. Napachie Pootoogook’s renowned later drawings, which were assembled for an impressive 2004 show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, uncover a centuries-old gender disparity that still haunts the North. The drawings contain candid examinations of rape and suicide, in addition to Napachie’s own struggle with domestic abuse.


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