Artist and Activist Daphne Odjig

Acclaimed artist and activist Daphne Odjig, who lives in Penticton, was recently honoured with three Canadian stamps. Hambleton Galleries in Kelowna is showing a retrospective of her work until March 12. Read the Okanagan Life story on Daphne (below) published in Jan/Feb 2008 or download a PDF.

Daphne Odjig

Sitting with her grandfather and drawing sketches as he planned his tombstone carvings, the little girl from the Wikwemikong Reserve on Manitoulin Island never imagined that her art would set her on the national stage. Despite her National Aboriginal Achievement Award, five honourary doctorates, Order of Canada and Governor General’s Award, the 88-year-old says, “I’m nothing special … I’ve stood in awe sometimes. I think, my mother, my father, what would they think…. I’m just so grateful that I’ve lived to experience these things.”

Experience has been her great teacher. “When I first went out into the white world (in the late 1930s), it was like hitting your head against a brick wall – it was so different. You had to learn. I learned all the way…. I guess the biggest accomplishment in my life is myself, what I have done. I’m more secure, my sense of pride is back.” That sense of pride infuses her art, it’s inspired new generations of native youth and “helped to open doors between our people and the non-Native community.”

Daphne’s art came naturally, the groundbreaking style self-taught. “Art comes from your heart, your soul, your spirit,” she says. “You look at my trees. You don’t see trees like that, but that’s how I feel they are. They talk to me that way.” She rates her mural The Indian In Transition, commissioned for the Canadian Museum of Civilization, as her best work. “I feel proud of it, of its history – that little thing.” Daphne painted the 27-foot canvas at her studio in Anglemont. Now living with her husband Chester Beavon in Penticton, Daphne is pleased that the current retrospective show of her original drawings and paintings is coming to BC and will run at the Kamloops Art Gallery, June 8 to August 31, before moving on the National Gallery of Canada. –Laurie Carter

Photo by Laurie Carter