British Museum exhibit features N.W.T. Indigenous artists

A new exhibit at the British Museum Museum, Arctic culture and climate, features crafts from two N.W.T. Indigenous artists.

Exhibit is carrying Indigenous brooches, hair pins and tea-cozies

These two tea-cozies, created by Ulukhaktok, N.W.T. artist Donna Akhiatak, are on display at the British Museum in the temporary exhibit Arctic culture and climate that runs until Feb. 21. (Submitted by Donna Akhiatak)

A new exhibit at one of the world's most famous museums is showcasing Indigenous artists from the Northwest Territories.

The British Museum's exhibit, Arctic culture and climate, opened Thursday and runs until Feb. 21.

"There are a lot of people, they really like it, they're really impressed," said Peter Loovers, an honorary research fellow at the University of Aberdeen who is the project curator for the exhibit. "They're really impressed how beautiful the crafts are and how skilled the women in the Arctic are."

Lucy Simon, an Indigenous artist in Jean Marie River, N.W.T. who does all her work on moose hide, created seven brooches and some hair pins for the exhibit.

"I'm just totally excited and happy about that because I've never been to Europe before, so alI my work is there, so I'm so happy about that," she said.

Donna Akhiatak, an artist in Ulukhaktok, N.W.T. who also manages the hamlet's arts centre, said she and several other women made tea-cozies for the exhibit.

Akhiatak said she was excited about having art from the area on display at the exhibit in London. It's the first time she's had some of her work exhibited outside of Canada.

These three moose hair tufted brooches, made by N.W.T. Indigenous artist Lucy Simon, are on display at the British Museum's Arctic culture and climate exhibit. (Submitted by NWT Arts)

How Arctic people are living climate change

Loovers, who lived in Fort McPherson, N.W.T. for more than two years in the mid 2000s to study and learn some Gwich'in, said the exhibit is about how Indigenous people deal with climate change and what it means in their lives.

"We wanted to highlight [the] different approach to climate change, to see how people really live climate change, all the things that they see that they experience," he said.

Loovers added that it was important for him and the lead curator of the exhibit, Amber Lincoln, that seamstresses be highlighted in the exhibit.

"They're creating all the necessary things to live out on the land," he said.

But it hasn't been without controversy.

The British Museum's Arctic exhibit features crafts from Indigenous N.W.T. artists. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Fur items

Loovers said when the British Museum's retail store carried items that were made with fur or bones, many people got upset.

"Being in London, people ... don't really have a good understanding of life in the Arctic," Loovers said.

He said he had some trouble having Gwich'in art, for example, in the retail store because it has fur.

He said he told the officials at the store that the exhibition is about how people are hunting and herding and that every part of the animal is used for either food, or making tools or clothing.

He said officials from the museum had discussions with people at NWT Arts who told then that was the way of life in the North for Indigenous peoples.

"We managed to sell some of their products to the British Museum so I'm happy about that," Loovers said. "I wish it could have been more."


  • This article was updated from a previous version that mistakenly stated Peter Loovers lived in Fort McPherson for about a year. In fact, he lived there for over two years. It was also updated to include the name of the lead curator of the exhibit, Amber Lincoln.
    Oct 26, 2020 10:34 AM CT