Joanne (left) and Sophia. Supplied.
July 9 is Nunavut Day in Canada, marking the date when Nunavut became an official separate territory. In Edmonton, the day was marked by the official opening of an exhibit of Inuit Art Masterworks, curated by Sophia Lebesis, the first Inuit woman in Canada to own and run an Inuit art gallery (Transformation Fine Art in Calgary.
Sophia is an amazing young woman who I have known since she was a small child. She learned a lot from her father, Nick Lebesis, who owned the Inuit art gallery in Lake Louise and learned about Inuit Art from the artists he knew while he lived with his family in Arviat, NU. Nick and his children watched Inuit artists create great works of art, but sell them for way less than they were worth on the world market. So, Nick decided he would help the Inuit artists share their culture by creating a space where they could sell their work fairly in the South of Canada.
As Sophia grew up, she watched her father helping Inuit artists on a daily basis. And as she went through school and university, she gained perspective on how fairly art should be sold. But when her father died in 2014, she realized she had to continue his legacy of helping Inuit artists. In taking up their cause, Sophia has found her own wings, and became a powerful voice for the Inuit people. In presenting these masterworks, she is sharing with Edmontonians the Inuit culture in which she grew up, until July 18. You can see them at the ATB Branch of Arts and Culture on Jasper Avenue and 98 Street during branch business hours.