British Museum curator on the prairie truth of prairie art

Image copyright Gens de la Saskatchewan Image caption More than 80 of the paintings are on permanent public display

The Gens de la Saskatchewan – or Prairie Nation – are a collection of 76 paintings, sketches and woodcuts that emerged in the early 1880s in the small prairie city of Saskatoon.

The series is designed to empower the poor and less-advantaged of Saskatchewan with pride, identity and a sense of identity.

The hunt for these objects got me thinking about how traditions are passed from generation to generation.

I can hear the laughter in the creation

for wannabe artists

One hatches from another.


See no need to interpret it

Look away

My head is soft, flat as a post

oh so sweet

that gives you a cup of black raffa!

See your hand looking straight up

You never were ever in need of eye-to-eye contact

Oh yes, now I am

so relieved as it pleases me, today

fine, thanks for the cup of black raffa!

Image copyright Gens de la Saskatchewan Image caption Artists using modern methods such as drawing on easels and with their pens

They are simple self-portraits often done by young female artists and customers who see the inspiration in their daughters.

They are a reminder of the humble roots of their art.

They are replicas of things that are often hard to acquire, such as pearls, rhinestones, straw, wood, feathers and flowers.

Images of these intricate ornaments are sold to people who enjoy a moment of personal indulgence.

“Something that moves me is that real painters are not being believed any more,” was how one of the artists, Darnell Bangerter, explained the origin of his works.

Image copyright Gens de la Saskatchewan Image caption Artists made their work by using traditional tools such as quill pens and thin marbled brushes

Another artist, Cressida Ochckeghem, spoke about her desire to pay tribute to Canada and give it a visual expression.

“It is a tribute to Canada and a tribute to other countries that have done that to us,” she said.

Sadly, many of the artists passed away before these works were added to the collection.

Image copyright Gens de la Saskatchewan Image caption The artist’s arms use beads, streamers and jewels, mimicking objects in the landscape

Although a large part of this collection was lost in a fire at the depot, the exhibit is still going strong in the RM Gallery, an historic building located on the northern end of the city, an early Canadian settler.

The Gens de la Saskatchewan has been on public display since 1983.

After seeing it, I think that it is finally acknowledged as a true cultural treasure and what makes Canada Canada.

Leave a Comment