Artwork celebrating Algonquin Anishnabeg culture and tradition unveiled at Ottawa's NAC

A new art installation was unveiled at the National Arts Centre on Monday. Titled “Heartbeat of Mother Earth” the mixed media art piece showcases aspects of Algonquin culture and tradition, recognizing the history and geography of this region.

“The NAC is located on the unceded and unsurrendered homeland of the Algonquin Anishnabeg,” said NAC director Christopher Deacon, ahead of the unveiling. “Starting today, the meaning of these words will be expressed through the work of Emily Brascoupé-Hoefler.”

Two large eyes stare out towards the National Arts Centre lobby. A closer inspection highlights aspects of Algonquin culture and tradition, recognizing the history and geography of this region.

“When I see the brown eyes, I see the ancestors watching,” said Algonquin elder Claudette Commanda. “When I see the blue eyes, I see the settlers that have come to this land but are learning.”

The piece was commissioned by the NAC following a call to Algonquin artists in all 11 communities.

“I’m hoping people who see it will feel a connection to the art,” said artist Emily Brascoupé-Hoefler. “That they’ll want to learn more about the Algonquin nation the indigenous people.”

The Algonquin artist created the work based on the teachings of elders and her own family’s history and stories. Birch, beadwork, and elements of the earth are used in both pieces. Her parents couldn’t be more proud.

“I think she was two when she said she was going to be an artist,” said Brascoupé-Hoefler‘s mother.

“To walk in and see Emily’s artwork on the wall, it’s beautiful,” added her father.

Surrounded by family and friends, the artist says she hopes the permanent display will open up more conversation for generations to come.