Mary Ann Penashue - Innu artist from Sheshatshiu, Labrador

My name is Mary Ann Penashue. I am married, and I have four children and two grandchildren. I live in Sheshatshiu, Labrador. I was born at a place on Mishta-shipu (Churchill River) in 1964, and I spent much of my youth at Mud Lake, near Goose Bay. I was raised by my grandparents, Michel and Mary Pasteen. During the fall months, my grandparents and I lived away from the community in the country where we hunted, fished and trapped.

I started drawing at a very young age. I always enjoyed looking at different types of paintings. Other people’s art would give me ideas for my own work. If I saw art that I liked, I would discuss it with someone who was also interested in art.

I started painting in 1995 when I was in my 30s. I started painting faces on canvas with oil because it was challenging. At this point, my husband and I had our fourth child, but I continued to paint despite the responsibilities of raising a family. As the years went by, and my children got bigger, I got better at painting. I took paid employment from time to time, but I was never happy with it. I love to paint. This is who I am.

Many of my paintings are about our Elders who are living and who have passed away. I enjoy painting them as well as children because they bring me peace of mind, and my paintings of them are something to be proud of. Moreover, the paintings bring happiness to our families. I paint with great passion, but this always makes it hard to give up my artwork.

My paintings are also about what we do on the land, where my people are able to live in a healthy way, both physically and mentally, with no worries; just feeling free, and with lots of energy to work.

The painting I did for the Innu web site is about a family that went to the country to hunt and live freely. Here, you see an Elder making snowshoe frames for the winter. The grandson likes to help his grandfather, and to learn from him. The grandmother has a pipe in her mouth and waits for her cooking pot to boil. There are two rabbits in the pot. The daughter is washing the laundry. She is happy that they are camping by the lake. The son-in-law has gone out to search for game because everybody is busy at the camp. He thinks that maybe, if he is lucky, he’ll see animals. Everybody is so quiet that the caribou walks towards the camp. The caribou doesn’t hear a sound. The son-in-law has his bow and arrow with him and takes aim at the caribou and kills it. The elderly woman is happy because she needs the caribou skin to lace her family’s snowshoes.

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