In 1978, at the request of James Jerome, Speaker of the House of Commons, a sculpture program featuring First Nations artists was established. The initial suggestion came from Wally Firth, Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories. The aim of the project was to reflect the diversity of Canada’s cultural heritage in Centre Block. The Minister of Public Works, Erik Nielsen, announced the project officially on February 4, 1980.
As part of the celebrations surrounding the 150th anniversary of Confederation and to mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of Nunavut as a territory, the House of Commons—with the support of Public Services and Procurement Canada—is commissioning a sculpture by an artist from the territory. Nunavut artist Bart Hanna has been selected to create that sculpture. The piece will serve as a contemporary addition to the Parliament Buildings.
Mr. Hanna was selected by a jury that included the Dominion Sculptor, invited experts from the arts community, and the Curator of the House of Commons.
The sculpture was unveiled on April 8, 2019, and it will be displayed in West Block until it can permanently take up residence in the House of Commons Foyer following the restoration of Centre Block.
Mr. Hanna is a sculptor based in Igloolik, Nunavut. He creates works that range in size from small figures to monumental works, each one incorporating a high level of detail and texture. Through his work, Mr. Hanna often addresses social issues and the effects of colonization that have negatively impacted Inuit communities. He does this by including characters that are pulled from shamanism or from his dreams, as a way of healing or addressing his own experiences and hopefully inspiring others to share and understand as well. Sculpture has become a medium through which Mr. Hanna explores his cultural roots and also communicates painful experiences.
Beautifully detailed, expressive, and evocative, this sculpture of the sea goddess Sedna contributes to the artistic and architectural character of the Parliament buildings.
Sedna is one of the most important and powerful figures in Inuit mythology. She watches over her sea-creature children and protects them from the harsh elements of the Arctic.
“ Sedna is one of the pieces I like carving the most. Sometimes she’s called Nuliajuk, Sassuma Arna or Takanakapsaaluk. She is a marine being that has been seen throughout the arctic waters, as my grandfather said one time many years ago. She is described as having a head and a torso similar to a human, with the bottom half of a whale, with fins and a fluke. Most stories of Sedna seem to suggest that she is benevolent; however, I have occasionally encountered comments that suggest this is not always the case. ”Bart Hanna
This sculpture marks the latest addition to the many treasured works of art, artefacts and architectural elements on Parliament Hill that showcase the power and beauty of Indigenous art.