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UNGALAQ (When Stakes Come Loose)

Exhibition Title: UNGALAQ (When Stakes Come Loose)

Artist: Maureen Gruben

Opening: June 8, 2017, 7:00 - 10:00 PM

Exhibition Dates: June 9 - July 29, 2017

Guest curated by Kyra Kordoski Tania Willard

“Ungalaq” is an Inuvialuktun word for the west wind. When the west wind comes up, tides rise and as the earth softens, things that are staked to the ground pull lose. Suddenly untethered, dogs run free and smoke houses drift up the beach. It is a period of unpredictability and, ultimately, of re-formation.

Drawing from five bodies of work, this solo exhibition will be the most extensive mounting of Gruben’s work to date. Currently a Victoria based artist, Gruben has developed a strong aesthetic and practice of working with materials linked to her home in the Inuvialuit hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk in the North West Territories and to the Coast Salish territories of Vancouver Island. Her aesthetic practice can be seen as rippling outward from the land itself. She delves deeply into broad issues like climate change in a way that is both eloquent and pared down, pushing viewers to extend their own process of thought and interpretation, and allowing them to feel their way through each gesture of weaving, tufting, encasing, and assembling in her material process. As an Inuvialuit artist her exploration of Indigenous materials variously includes polar bear fur, seal skin and whale intestines in combination with anodized aluminum, pvc, wool and other materials associated with industry. These substances do not function in binary structure of opposing traditional and industrial materiality. Rather, Gruben’s material sense reverberates throughout her choices, conceptually linking her experiences of home to ways in which materials are reused, re-appropriated and reimagined.

This exhibition, Ungalaq, includes recently commissioned work, Stitching My Landscape made in Tuktoyaktuk (NWT). Stitching My Landscape is a part of LandMarks2017/Repères2017 (, created by PIA, presented by TD – A Canada 150 Signature Project.

Download the exhibition catalogue with texts by Kyra Kordoski and Tania Willard HERE.

Maureen Gruben was born in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT. She studied at Kelowna Okanagan College of Fine Arts (Diploma in Fine Arts, 1990), the Enʼowkin Centre in Penticton (Diploma in Fine Arts and Creative Writing, 2000 and Certificate in Indigenous Political Development & Leadership, 2001), and University of Victoria (BFA, 2012). She has been recognized by Kelownaʼs En’owkin Centre with both their Eliza Jane Maracle Award (1998/99) and their Overall Achievement Award (1999/2000). In 2011 she was awarded the Elizabeth Valentine Prangnell Scholarship Award from the University of Victoria. Gruben has most recently exhibited in the group show Blink at University of Victoria (2012) and Custom Made at Kamloops Art Gallery (2015).

Born in Whitehorse, YK, Kyra Kordoski is now based in Victoria, BC. For the past year she has been working with Maureen Gruben as an artist assistant and writer, and has had the great privilege of spending time at Maureen’s home in Tuktoyuktuk as a guest on multiple visits. Prior to this she completed an MA in Cultural Studies at Leeds University with a dissertation on visual strategies of social resistance, and an MFA in Art Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. While in London she organized and participated in Art Writing events at Whitechapel Gallery, X Marks the Bokship, and Goldsmiths University. Her writing has been published in various arts publications, including C Magazine, White Fungus, BOMB and Art Handler Magazine. She is currently also working to document artworks created as a part of LandMarks 2017/Repères 2017.

Tania Willard, Secwepemc Nation, works within the shifting ideas around contemporary and traditional, often working with bodies of knowledge and skills that are conceptually linked to her interest in intersections between Aboriginal and other cultures. Willard has been a curator in residence with grunt gallery and Kamloops Art Gallery. Willard’s curatorial work includes the national touring exhibition Beat Nation: Art Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture, co-curated with Kathleen Ritter at the Vancouver Art Gallery. In 2016 Willard received the Award for Curatorial Excellence in Contemporary Art from the Hanatyshyn Foundation. Willard’s selected recent curatorial work includes; Unceded Territories: Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Nanitch: Historical BC photography and BUSH gallery as well as the upcoming LandMarks 2017/Repères 2017.


Join us for an evening of Indigenous storytelling through the work of two powerful film and exhibition projects.

Thunder in Our Voices with Drew Ann Wake, Gordon Christie and Martina Norwegian
In conjunction with Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) Vancouver 2017
Four Faces of the Moon with Amanda Strong
screening and book launch

Thunder in our Voices
Forty years ago, Justice Thomas Berger of the Supreme Court of British Columbia was asked to hold hearings into a proposed natural gas pipeline across the North Coast of the Yukon, along the Mackenzie Valley, to southern markets. He elected to hold hearings in thirty Dene and Inuvialuit communities along the Valley, where residents demanded that no pipeline be built until their land claims were settled.

This was the first time that many southern Canadians had the opportunity to hear voices from the North, and a vociferous national debate about the pipeline ensued, the first shot in what has become a national discussion about resource development and Indigenous rights.

Drew Ann Wake was a young reporter covering the hearings. Eight years ago she found her audio tapes and photographs from the time. She decided to return, with photographer Linda MacCannell, to the villages along the Mackenzie River so that young people could hear the voices of their grandparents and great-grandparents.

Over the last eight years they have worked with teenagers in twenty-five northern communities, from Trout Lake to Tuktoyaktuk, to produce short films based on images and stories from the Inquiry. The result is Thunder in our Voices, an exhibition of images and films that span five generations of Dene and Inuvialuit history. The exhibition will be on display at the Indian Residential Schools Dialogue Centre on the UBC campus during the NAISA conference.

During this screening at the grunt gallery, Drew Ann will be joined by Martina Norwegian of Fort Simpson and UBC professor Dr. Gordon Christie, originally from Inuvik, who will discuss how stories told by the Dene and Inuvialuit over 125 years continue to have an impact on the communities of the North. An audience discussion will follow.

Four Faces of the Moon
Four Faces of the Moon is a multi-media installation that provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the elaborate sets, puppets, and props created for the new stop motion animated film by the same name. The story is told in four chapters, which explore the reclamation of language and Nationhood, and peel back the layers of Canada’s colonial history.

A personal story told through the eyes of director and writer Amanda Strong, as she connects the oral and written history of her family as well as the history of the Michif (Métis), Cree and Anishinaabe people and their cultural ties to the buffalo. Canada’s extermination agenda of the buffalo isn’t recorded as fervently as it was in the United States, yet the same tactics were used north of the border to control the original inhabitants of the land. This story seeks to uncover some of that history and establish the importance of cultural practice, resistance and language revival from a personal perspective.

The exhibition catalogue includes texts by Kristen Dowell and Dylan Miner. Copies of the publication will be available for sale.

Read more about the Four Faces of the Moon exhibition here.



Gordon Christie is an Associate Professor of Law,Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia; and is Director of the Indigenous Legal Studies Program. Professor Christie is of Inupiat/Inuvialuit ancestry and specializes in Aboriginal law. His teaching is primarily in the fields of Aboriginal law and legal theory, and his research work is entirely concerned with these two realms (and their intersection). His most recent work focuses on how colonial systems of cultural meaning frame Canadian jurisprudence around Aboriginal rights.

Martina Norwegian is a Dene woman, born and raised in Liildili Kue (Fort Simpson) in the Deh Cho Region of the Northwest Territories, Canada. A leader in her community, she has advocated that consistency be the key for making a difference in local programs & services. As a First Nation member, her participation and advocacy for the “voices not heard” has always been a prime focus, whether in Education, History preservation and in the four quadrants of life. Martina served for many years on both the local and regional Boards of Education. She participated for 27 years in the  promotion & preservation of  history through the local Fort Simpson Historical Society. Their major accomplishment, through perseverance and dedication of local volunteers, has been the Fort Simpson Heritage Park: identifying local historical landmarks and building a museum which will house artefacts and information about the history of the Dehcho. Although the building is near completion, the real work has only just begun, as we strive to make the difference we want to see in ourselves and our communities.

In the 1970s, Drew Ann Wake worked for the CBC and the National Film Board, covering the hearings of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry as it travelled to thirty Dene and Inuvialuit communities across the North. She subsequently began a career in exhibition design, creating museums and science centres across Europe, in the United States and Canada. She produced thirty educational computer games that ask players to resolve environmental and social issues. Returning to Canada, Drew Ann began working on her current exhibition, Thunder in our Voices, which incorporates interactive video shot with the Dene and Inuvialuit leaders who testified before the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry.

Amanda Strong is an Indigenous filmmaker, media artist and stop motion director currently based out of the unceded Coast Salish territory also known as Vancouver. She is the owner and director of Spotted Fawn Productions, an animation and media-based studio creating short films, commercial projects and workshops. A labour of love, Amanda’s productions collaborate with a diverse and talented group of artists putting emphasis on support and training women and Indigenous artists.

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Media Contact for the exhibition:

Tarah Hogue, grunt gallery | 604-875-9516 or,


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