Legends of My People The Great Ojibway – Illustrated and told by Norval Morriseau – 1965

Legends of My People The Great Ojibway
Illustrated and told by Norval Morriseau
Edited by Selwyn Dewdney /© The Ryerson Press, 1965

In 1962, Norval Morrisseau met a Toronto artist-gallery owner Jack Pollock, who was teaching painting in northern Ontario. Pollock was so impressed with Morrisseau’s paintings that he put on a solo exhibition of Morrisseau’s work at his Toronto gallery. The show was an astonishing success; all the paintings sold out in one day.

This led to jealousy among tribal members who criticized Norval Morrisseau for revealing the tribe’s legends and beliefs in the paintings. Since the paintings speak to the emotions but not in words, they may be based on legends and myths, but don’t actually narrate anything.

Probably the cricitism stemmed mostly from Morrisseau’s book “Legends of My People The Great Ojibway”, edited by Selwyn Dewdeney – an art aducator and noted expert on Ojibway art and anthropology (Toronto, Ryerson Press, 1965). Morrisseau defended himself, saying he wanted to restore cultural pride to the largely catholicized people. Indeed, the visual vocabulary he developed has spoken powerfully to artistically inclined Ahishnaabe all over northern Ontario.