Aboriginal art Christmas stamps

Posted on Nov. 04, 2002 by CPO in Latest Stamps
Canada Post celebrates the season with a special set of three Christmas stamps displaying the works of three Canadian aboriginal artists. Featured are Genesis by Daphne Odjig on the domestic rate ($0.48) stamp; Winter Travel by Cecil Youngfox on the U.S. rate ($0.65) stamp; and Mary and Child by Irene Katak Angutitaq on the international rate ($1.25) stamp. The domestic rate stamp is available in a booklet of 10 or a pane of 25, and the U.S. and international rate stamps are available separately in booklets of six or panes of 25.

Daphne Odjig
Born in 1919 on the Wikwemikong Reserve on Manitoulin Island, ON, Daphne Odjig was the daughter of a Potawatomi father and an English mother. Odjig recalled that her father loved to draw and paint, and that her mother used to embroider. She would watch her grandfather, a tombstone carver, create beautiful lettering with his chisel. Odjig grew up surrounded by art.

In 1938, Odjig left the reserve for Toronto, where she became a wartime worker in the Inglis plant. She soon discovered the city's art galleries and libraries, where she perused books on art. After the war, Odjig and her husband opened an art gallery in Winnipeg. It was the first Canadian art gallery dedicated to aboriginal art, and it became a magnet for a group of artists that eventually became known as the 'Indian Group of Seven.'

In 1978, Odjig was commissioned by Ottawa's National Museum of Man to paint the historical mural entitled The Indian in Transition. This honour was one in a series that recognized and celebrated Odjig's talents as an artist. In 1986, she was made a member of the Order of Canada due to her great innovation and ability to work in a number of mediums and her being a central figure in the development of Native art in Canada. Odjig was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, and has received honorary degrees from Laurentian, Toronto, and Nipissing. Furthermore, she was granted an Aboriginal Achievement Award and was given an eagle feather by the chief of the Wikwemikong Reserve, an honour formerly reserved for great hunters and warriors.

Genesis is a highly stylized 'Mary and Child' painting rendered in Odjig's own style, which combines elements of cubism and surrealism with an aboriginal world view. Phillip Gevik of Toronto's Gallery Gevik calls the work "a great choice… [which displays] a kind and warm sentiment… a suitable theme for Christmas."

Cecil Youngfox (1942-1987)
Cecil Youngfox was born in Blind River, ON to Ojibwa and Metis parents. He attended Newman Theological College in Edmonton, AB, and after he was able to support himself with his art, opened a studio in Toronto. Youngfox frequently returned to Northern Ontario to speak to young students and encourage them in their efforts.

Whetung Ojibwa Crafts and Art Gallery says that Youngfox's paintings "speak of his Metis heritage and his Christian upbringing," and that his works "often recall ceremonies and symbols of spirit and spirituality." Youngfox is renowned for his vivid images of native cultural traditions, and had become one of Canada's leading Native artists by the time of his death.

Winter Travel
When research was conducted on the possibility of using one of Youngfox's paintings on a Christmas stamp, Canadian Artprints of Richmond, BC advised Canada Post that among Youngfox's papers were two 'roughs' he had made for postage stamps. One was named A Canoe Thanksgiving, the other Winter Travel. Both bore $0.30 denominations, the first-class rate for 1982. The highly stylized Winter Travel shows human figures alongside a reindeer.

Irene Katak Angutitaq (1914-1971)
Irene Katak was born at Utkusikhalik (Back River), NT, and after marrying Athanasie Angutitaq in 1929, lived in Naujaat (Repulse Bay). The family lived in tents during the summer and in a snow house during the winter. Their son Peter Irniq (now the Commissioner of Nunavut) recalls an early life of dog teams and seal and caribou hunting. He would watch his mother carve figures of men, women and birds - figures that were always in action.

Father Bernie Franzen had noted that Irene was a "very innovative person" and he encouraged her to carve from soapstone, ivory and whale bone. He also encouraged her to create figurines of the Virgin Mary. Irene Katak Angutitaq's works can be found in the Museum of Civilization, Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Eskimo Museum and other galleries.

Mary and Child
The ivory carving rests on a soapstone base and measures 18.5 cm x 4.8 cm x 2.5 cm. It shows Mary, dressed in Inuit clothing, holding the baby Jesus.

A Warm Design
Signals Design Group Inc. of Vancouver created this three-stamp set. Design principal Kosta (Gus) Tsetsekas says that the primary objective was to create a design that would lend visual support to the artwork but let the paintings and sculpture feature prominently. This objective was met by using complementary colours, unobtrusive typography, and a background style that simultaneously reflects the coolness of winter and the warmth of the holidays.

Keith Hamilton and Bernice Alderson were the designers of the Aboriginal Art Christmas stamp set, which features Mike Macri's photograph of the Mary and Child carving.

Stamp Specifications

  • Design: Signals Design Group
  • Dimensions: 32 mm x 38 mm (vertical)
  • Gum Type: P.V.A.
  • Paper Type: Tullis Russell Coatings
  • Perforations: 13+
  • Printer: Canadian Bank Note
  • Tagging: General, 4 sides
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  • Product #: 403525107
  • Layout: Pane of 25 stamps
  • Price: $12.00
  • Denomination: 1 x 48¢
  • Printing Process: Lithography in 7 colours
  • Quantity: 64,815,000 stamps
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  • Product #: 403526107
  • Layout: Pane of 25 stamps
  • Price: $16.25
  • Denomination: 1 x 65¢
  • Printing Process: Lithography in 7 colours
  • Quantity: 10,922,000 stamps
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  • Product #: 403527107
  • Layout: Pane of 25 stamps
  • Price: $31.25
  • Denomination: 1 x 1.25
  • Printing Process: Lithography in 6 colours
  • Quantity: 10,922,000 stamps
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