Monday, October 31, 2011

Artist Remembered as Great Shaman (2007) Norval Morrisseau Memorial "Gathering of the People"

A Statement by J. Santiago
at the Norval Morrisseau Memorial Gathering (Dec 8 2007)

This was such an honest recital from those who knew Norval so well. I feel that I can carry these funny, insightful and heartfelt stories with me tonight and to those that could not come and to those who have gone before.
For all our relations.
J. Santiago

Artist remembered as 'great shaman'.
Painters pledge to honour legacy of 'Picasso of the North'
by starting a native art school in his memory.

Friends, family and fans of the late Norval Morrisseau gathered last night to pay tribute to the Canadian artist who took native art and put it on the world stage in vibrant colour.

In a small auditorium in downtown Toronto, native elder Vern Harper and others who knew Morrisseau from his days as an artist living hand-to-mouth on the streets of Toronto spoke of the man heralded as "the Picasso of the North" as a spirited individual, well loved by all who knew him.

"Everyone recognized him as a great artist, but he was more than that. He was a great shaman.There won't be one like him in a thousand years," said Harper. "Just being in his presence when he was at his best or at his worst was a great honour."

Morrisseau, 75, died Tuesday at Toronto General Hospital after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. Harper, a long-time friend of Morrisseau, was joined by two artists who had been mentored by the experienced painter.

One of those artists, Ritchie Sinclair, said it's unfair for the media to "lift him up here and they put him down there," in reference to Morrisseau's reputation as the most influential native artist of his generation, as well as a troubled alcoholic. Sinclair and fellow painter Brian Marion vowed last night to honour Morrisseau by starting a native school of art in his memory. They hope to incorporate Morrisseau's native name, "Miskwaabik Animiki," which translates to Copper Thunderbird, into the school's name.

"From an artist's perspective, (his legacy) is just starting now," Sinclair said. "All of us will be long gone and what he did is just going to keep growing."

The traditional memorial featured native dance, singing, the smoking of a prayer pipe and managed, for the most part, to avoid the recent controversy over what should come of Morrisseau's remains. 

Christian Morrisseau, the artist's youngest son and one of his seven children, insists his father's remains should be brought back to a reserve near Thunder Bay where the artist's estranged wife is buried. Meanwhile the artist's brother wants his ashes to be spread over Lake Nipigon. What exactly his wishes were remain open to interpretations.

"Norval always knew that this was not his home and that he would go home sometime and now he's going home," said Harper.

Regardless of the controversy, Christian affirmed yesterday that his love for his father is "unconditional."

"I have to say although he really wasn't there for me as I grew up, I've learned who my father was through books, through my sister and through my mother as well," he said
The Toronto Star
Dec 09 2007

A Statement by Julie Gordon
at the Norval Morrisseau Memorial Gathering (Dec 8 2007)

I spoke to Norval's son. My name is Julie Gordon, daughter of Maui's Ehlect. She had her art in the same gallery as Norval, at Jack Pollock's gallery on Markham St. I always enjoyed Nprval's pictures and I believe he has helped me on my journey. I am happy to be here and I am honoured to have been able to share this message.
Peace from Julie

1 comment:

  1. Norval turned up athe Scottish Coffee Shop where I read Traditonal Highland Strupach Crystal/Tea on weekends in Nanaimo,BC. He was smiling and handsome, in a wheelchair, dressed in a gorgeous beaded, fringed jacket and recovering from a stroke in 1995.We discussed sign reading, my Great Grans all passed down knowledge of the Ancient Ogham symbols,inscribed on Celtic cairns, burial dolmens,tapestries, all based on Sacred irish Brehon Tree Law, still upheld in Irish Law,Crith Gablach (God's Law). West Coast 1st Nations Symmetrical,carved cedar spinning discs bear an amazing resemblance to the old Celtic ones; knowledge of the ancient symbols translate easily, despite cultural/language barriers.A medieval peasant could have easily translated the ancient Beaux Tapestries,more accurately than any modern day scholar, armed with the spiritual knowledge behind every flower, shrub, tree, mark. Norval's left hand shook badly until he held a brush, then he said,"when I hold the brush, it becomes steady enough to paint; a gift from the Creator for a little while longer."We discussed our gratitude to our Grandfathers and Grandmothers, for passing on a spiritual gift which ensured both physical/ spiritual/cultural survival, healing for a people despite oppressive times throughout history. The love of one's people and all their relations survives through what we teach our children to honour, treasure as their guiding star. Modern technology can't touch it. Slainte chugat!