Google doodle honors Copper Thunderbird on National Indigenous Peoples Day of Canada
Today, on Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day, Google doodle on Norval Morrisseau, an Indigenous Canadian artist to honor his paintings that have beautifully captured the stories of Indigenous tradition. Today’s Doodle — illustrated by Anishinaabe guest artists Blake Angeconeb and Danielle Morrison.
Norval Morrisseau’s Ojibwa name is Copper Thunderbird. Morrisseau is widely considered the grandfather of contemporary Indigenous art in Canada, and his work paved the way for the emergence of Indigenous artwork in mainstream galleries. He is also known as the “Picasso of the North”. Morrisseau is from the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation.
Morrisseau created works illustrating the legends of his people, the cultural and political tensions between Canadian and European Indigenous traditions, their existential struggles, and their deep spirituality and mysticism.
Norval Morriseau was born on the Sand Point Ojibwa Reservation in Ontario, Canada on March 14, 1932. He was raised by his maternal grandparents, who helped instill his pride in Anishinaabe culture and traditions. At the age of six, Morriseau was forced to leave his home and attend boarding school, a place where traditional Aboriginal ceremonies were prohibited and speaking traditional languages was forbidden.
Despite the traumas and hardships he experienced in his youth, Morrisseau was driven by his desire to preserve the traditions of his people. His grandfather, a shaman trained in the Midewiwin spiritual tradition, had introduced Morrisseau to shamanism and passed on to him the stories and legends of the Ojibwa people.
As Morrisseau entered adulthood, he began to explore ways to incorporate Anishinabek oral traditions and imagery into his works. In 1962, he organized an exhibition at the Pollock Gallery in Toronto, marking his official debut in the art world and the first time an Aboriginal artist was presented in a major contemporary art gallery in Canada. His artistic style became known as Woodland painting, combining rich colors, birchbark scroll prints, and, often, skeletal animals and people.
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Morrisseau’s work represents a unique intersection between traditional Aboriginal imagery and modern art styles. His path to success was not straightforward – Morrisseau’s works have unfortunately been the subject of ongoing cases of fraud and plagiarism, as many have sought to capitalize on the value gained from his unique style.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Morrisseau’s works have been featured in exhibitions in Canada, Europe and around the world. Some of his notable paintings include Moose Dream Legend (1962), Conquest of the Thunderbird (1982), Androgyny (1983), and Observations of the Astral World (1994). Morrisseau also used his growing influence to champion and support emerging First Nations artists, such as Daphne Odjig and Roy Thomas. He was one of the founding members of the Indian Group of Seven, a group dedicated to building the next generations of Aboriginal artists. Morrisseau’s contributions have led him to be recognized as the grandfather of contemporary Native art in North America.
Today we can see Morrisseau’s legacy recognized on the world stage as a renowned artist, revolutionary and Indigenous icon. Her ability to break down societal, sexual and mainstream stereotypes exemplifies the perseverance and power shown by countless Indigenous peoples. On National Indigenous Peoples Day and every day, we seek to celebrate these accomplishments and recognize the contributions Indigenous Peoples have had and continue to have on Turtle Island.
Thank you, Morrisseau for sharing the stories of your Indigenous culture through art with the world!
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