Statement by Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine on the passing of renowned Ojibway artist Norval Morrisseau
October 1, 2008October 1, 2008 Add comment0 comments Letters Letters
OTTAWA, Dec. 4, 2007

"It is with great sadness that I acknowledge the passing of Norval Morrisseau today after a lengthy battle with Parkinson's disease at the age of 75," said National Chief Phil Fontaine.

"Norval was probably best known for inventing the Woodlands style of art. His success did not come without a price. He faced many personal struggles over the years. We are very grateful for his contributions to First Nations, Canada and the world."

"Norval Morrisseau was the key figure at the centre of an Indigenous art movement in Canada in the 1960s that broke through stereotypes, racism and discrimination in that era. He struggled to have his art shown in fine art galleries," said National Chief Fontaine. "And he succeeded. His work has been on display in the most prestigious museums in Canada and around the world. It was a tremendous breakthrough when his art was featured prominently at Expo '67 in Montreal as part of the "Indian" pavilion."

Morrisseau received an honorary degree from the Royal Academy of Arts and was a member of The Order of Canada, the highest civilian honor in Canada. In 1989 he was the only Canadian painter to be invited to participate in the "Magicians of The Earth" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, France. He also had numerous solo shows across Canada and the US. Most recently, Morrisseau travelled to Ottawa where he was honoured by parliamentarians upon receiving a 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation.

"Norval Morrisseau's courageous and often controversial approach to his work was instrumental in encouraging First Nations people to know their spirituality, history and culture in order to better understand themselves. He taught us to be proud of who we are. He inspired countless other First Nations people to pursue a career in the arts. His legacy will remain with us and continue to inspire all Canadians for many generations to come," added National Chief Phil Fontaine.

"On behalf of the Assembly of First Nations, we offer our condolences to the family and friends of Norval Morrisseau."

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.
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