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A rendering of the Inuit Art Centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Michael Maltzan Architecture/Inuit Art Centre

The Inuit Art Centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is now Qaumajuq.

The WAG announced Wednesday that a circle of language keepers have given an Inuktitut name to the centre. Qaumajuq (pronounced HOW-ma-yourq) means “It is bright, it is lit,” a reference to the light that flows into the new building through its glass front.

The centre, which was set to open next month, is now expected to launch in February, 2021. It will house the largest public collection of Inuit art in the world, holdings that include more than 7,000 pieces on long-term loan from the government of Nunavut.

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The art includes contemporary prints, drawings and sculptures, and rare historic pieces, most of which will be on public display for the first time. The centre, which will launch with free admission for all Indigenous visitors, will feature a glass vault, a system of open storage letting people see a larger number of works.

The renaming of Qaumajuq, which the WAG says is the first of its kind at a major art institution in Canada, is an initiative that responds to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, both of which include articles stressing the importance of Indigenous languages.

The language keepers representing both Inuit communities and Indigenous peoples in the Treaty 1 territory where the WAG stands have also given the original gallery building an Anishinaabemowin name: Biindigin Biwaasaeyaah, meaning “Come on in, the dawn of light is here.” The gallery will continue to be known as the Winnipeg Art Gallery, but the Biindigin Biwaasaeyaah name is intended to signify the presence of Indigenous languages at the institution.

The names were arrived at by virtual consultations lead by Dr. Julie Nagam and Dr. Heather Igloliorte, co-chairs of the WAG Indigenous advisory circle, and joined by a group of fluent Indigenous language keepers and elders. The group included both the Inuit, and First Nations and Metis from the Winnipeg area. The languages represented are Inuktitut (Inuit), Inuvialuktun (Inuit), Anishinaabemowin (Anishinaabe/Ojibway), Nêhiyawêwin (Ininiwak/Cree), Dakota (Dakota), and Michif (Metis), and the names can be heard at wag.ca.

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