Norval Morrisseau (1963) The Conduit for Cultural Transfer

Norval Morrisseau
circa 1963

Across the country rave reviews had greeted a young Ojibwa artist
in his first commercial exhibition. His name was Norval Morrisseau and
the show at the Pollock Gallery, a commercial gallery in Toronto, in
1962 was a decisive event that changed the way people were to look at
Aboriginal art and artists for years to come.

Ruth Phillips has argued that Morrisseau’s non-Aboriginal audiences
(conditioned by European notions of primitivism and witnessing Canadian
art appropriated by Canadian nationalism) saw in him fresh pagan

He was seriously censured by his tribal elders,
however, for representing and commodifying sacred images. In reaction to
the sad realities of Aboriginal life Morrisseau’s controversial
cultural strategy – breaking with tradition to salvage Ojibwa beliefs –
constructed a vision for the future, and for himself, artistically.

Morrisseau was motivated by his despair in seeing the younger generation losing its ties
with traditional Ojibwa culture. He saw the elders dying and young
children being removed from the reserves to be educated in white

Morrisseau became the conduit for cultural transfer, positioning himself as the new communicator or “image-maker”.

An excerpt from….”Hidden in plain sight”
Daniel J. K. Beavon, Cora Jane Voyageur, David Newhouse