Today the Bank of Canada will enter into circulation 40 million commemorative $10 banknotes celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. Notably, and for the first time, a Canadian banknote features a work of Inuit art, Kenojuak Ashevak’s, OC, RCA (1927-2013) Owl’s Bouquet (2007).
The design for the commemorative bill incorporates the stonecut and stencil print as a holographic rendering, found in the banknote’s transparent window. This is only the second time an original artwork by an Indigenous artist has been reproduced on a Canadian bank note, the first being a work by Haida artist Bill Reid on the $20 banknote in 2004.
Ashevak’s Owl’s Bouquet was included in the 2007 Cape Dorset Print Collection and was selected by the Bank of Canada after two rounds of consultations with the Canadian public. It takes over two years to produce a bank note,” explains Josianne Ménard, Media Relations for the Bank of Canada. “Canadians told us that they wanted to see an Indigenous component to the note which is reflected with the portrait of Akay-na-muka (James Gladstone), Canada’s first senator of First Nations origin, the Métis arrow sash pattern and the artwork by Kenojuak Ashevak. Ashevak’s Owl’s Bouquet was recommended to us by the curator of Indigenous art at the Museum of History, Linda Grussani and we saw a nice connection with this extremely prolific artist who lived in Nunavut, the last territory to join Confederation.”
This is not the first time an image by the artist has been reproduced for national circulation. In 1999, Canada’s 25-cent circulation coin for April featured a design by Ashevak titled Our Northern Heritage featuring the artist’s most iconic subject, an owl, and a polar bear to mark the creation of Nunavut on April 1st of that year. A total of three of her works have been reproduced on Canadian stamps—The Enchanted Owl (1960) in 1970 for the Centennial of The Northwest Territories series, The Return of the Sun (1961) in 1980 for the Inuit series and The Owl ( 1969) for the 1993 series of Masterpieces of Canadian Art.
The bill was unveiled this past April at an event in Ottawa by the Bank of Canada’s Governor Stephen S. Poloz and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, with several members of Ashevak’s family present. “It is fitting that [Kenojuak Ashevak’s] work be a feature of this new commemorative bank note, both as a tribute to her artistic legacy and as a reminder of the ongoing cultural contribution of Inuit art from Cape Dorset,” said West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative President Pingwartok Ottokie at the time of the unveiling. Dorset Fine Arts, the wholesale marketing division of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative, has also gifted a studio proof to the Bank of Canada’s permanent collection.