Nunavik artist contributes to monumental national quilt

Vicki Okpik of Nunavik has contributed to the creation of a quilt that represents Canada’s cultural communities.


MONTREAL — A monumental quilt featuring a square from Nunavik was to have been unveiled in the Hall of Honour this Thursday at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

The quilt project is called “Invitation,” since each of Canada’s various cultural communities, along with First Nations and Inuit, were asked to contribute a block embellished with their traditional designs.

“This is an invitation to make together a work of art that celebrates the beauty, complexity and sheer size of our Canadian story,” said Esther Bryan, project organizer and a textile artist. “This is an invitation to make a unique, lasting, collaborative work of art on a truly national scale.”

Bryan said the quilt’s first row of squares will represent the aboriginal peoples of Canada, and their cultures. The design on the Haida square, for example, is made from abalone shells and bark cloth.

Nunavik designer and Makivik employee Vicki Okpik designed an 18–by–16–inch block for Nunavik sponsored by the Makivik Corporation.

Okpik is known for her distinctive designs, which include the colourful blue and white parkas worn by Nunavik’s team at the Arctic Winter Games.

Okpik says she wanted her block to incorporate symbols from Nunavik so that the design would be reflective of the region.

“I wanted to do an inuksuk from Nunavik. We have a kind that’s narrow,” Okpik said. “I also did a woman wearing an amautik in the Nunavik style, but it’s very hard to do something specific from Nunavik.”

Okpik used tanned sealskin as a backing for her square and edged it in patch–worked sealskin.

Her design features an outdoor scene centered around an embroidered inuksuk, a family unit of woman, child and man, as well as a snowy owl.

Okpik also wanted to incorporate local materials from both the Hudson and Ungava regions of Nunavik, so the ivory ulus sewn into the four corners come from Inukjuak, while the sealskin is from the Ungava Bay.

When the huge, 100 by 30 feet quilt is finished, it should have 300 sqaures.

Bryan hopes it will eventually end up in the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

“But long before it sits in an institution, we hope it travels around Canada,” Bryan said.

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