Congratulations to not one, but two winners of this year’s MOA Shop Emerging Indigenous Artist Contest: Maka Monture Päki for Not Invisible and John Velten for Hummingbird! This year, the contest submissions were so strong that our contest jury declared its first-ever tie.
The MOA Shop Emerging Indigenous Artist Contest began in 2014 as the MOA Shop T-shirt Contest, with a call for budding artists to submit art expressing their heritage, culture and identity. Winners receive a cash prize and royalties from t-shirts printed with their art, which are sold exclusively at the MOA Shop. The contest was developed in conjunction with MOA’s 2014 award-winning exhibition Claiming Space: Voices of Urban Aboriginal Youth, which featured Indigenous youth telling their own cultural stories.
Both Claiming Space and the Emerging Indigenous Artist Contest share the voices of young Indigenous artists. The contest provides a supportive and professional environment to showcase their art that, for some past winners, has been the start of their careers in the arts. On winning the contest in 2018, Sarah Jim says, “[it] has been an amazing experience because my art is not only being encouraged but celebrated by being displayed at a major institution… I love wearing my shirt! It represents who I am as an artist and who I am as a member of W̱SÁNEĆ. This opportunity has encouraged me to keep creating and to stay on the artistic path that I’m on.”
This year’s two winning artists explore different themes in their pieces, but share an abundance of talent and a passion for how art can create community.
Maka Monture Päki is an author, campaigner, scholar and ceremonial performer of Tlingit, Mohawk, Filipina, and Canadian Kanien’kehá:ka descent, currently living in Anchorage, Alaska. Her powerful piece Not Invisible depicts a female guardian with a labret piercing (lip piercing) and healing hands, in honour of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
John Velten is an artist from Vancouver, BC who works in public installation, 2D graphics and 3D sculptural works. His elegant piece Hummingbird embodies “the flourishing and lighthearted take” he has towards “learning more about who I am and where we reside.” He sees artwork as a way to positively impact and serve his community, with the intention of reaching broad audiences.
Past winners have embodied many facets of what it means to be a young Indigenous artist today. Alison Marks (Tlingit) won the contest in 2014 for Live Long and Potlatch and in 2015 for How Raven Accidentally Wiped Out the Dinosaurs. Her bold designs re-imagined cultural motifs through a modern lens. 2016’s winning design Touching Spirit by Danika Naccarella (Nuxalk) was influenced by house posts in Bella Coola and ancestral teachings. In 2017, Maya McKibbin (Yaqui, Huichol and Ojibwe) was inspired by the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and illustrated the Lakota prophecy of the end of the world in The Black Snake. And in 2018, Sarah Jim (Tseycum) depicted an image of ecological harmony and stewardship of the sea for her piece Orca Ontology.
This year’s winning artworks can be found adorning t-shirts at the MOA Shop in July, alongside selected past winners. By purchasing a shirt, visitors help share and support the work of these talented emerging artists, while ensuring the longevity of the contest for the future.