Connecting Inupiat culture with today

There is a new art installation at UAA’s Hugh McPeck Gallery that is Inupiat inspired titled “Simple. Modern. Traditional,” which describes what artist Britt’Nee Brower hopes to achieve through the exhibition.

Simple – Modern – Traditional, a gallery show by Britt’Nee Brower, can be viewed in the Hugh McPack Gallery in the UAA Student Union. Photo Christina Swayney.

Brower is a 29-year-old Alaska Native artist who grew up in  Utqiagvik, formerly called Barrow. She is a supporter of preserving Alaska Native culture and language in this modern age, and hopes to translate that to a wider audience through art.

“Brower is a strong proponent of Inupiat values and their relevance in our modern age. She advocates the revitalization of the language, art, storytelling and tattoo traditions of her Inupiat people and brings this passion to her artwork,” according to her website.

The gallery installation features works that are colorful and reflect Brower’s cultural identity in this modern age. It also features a variety of works, including some made on canvas, three dimensional wire sculptures, masks and sculptures. One of her works, “Looking for my Native Identity,” shows that she feels there is a disconnect between her and her Inupiat culture.

“Looking for my Native Identity” by Britt’Nee Brower. Photo by Christina Swayney.

“This is my shadow-box self portrait. I am looking for my Native identity. I feel disconnected because I don’t have the skills to live a subsistence lifestyle. I feel disconnected because I can’t speak fluently in our Native tongue,” according to the plaque on her piece.

Spirit Snow Angasan is a young, Alaskan Native and recently viewed Brower’s artwork. She connects especially with “Looking for my Native Identity.”

“I wish I was more in tune with my culture and heritage. I used to dance the traditional dances. I used to sing traditional songs. It seems like those things and younger people are not as connected as they should be,” Angasan said.

“I Can’t Speak” by Britt’Nee Brower. Photo by Christina Swayney.
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Along with her artwork, Brower is also known for creating a coloring book called Inupiat Coloring Book: Names of Animals. The book features pictures of animals with Inupiaq words under them, as well as the English translation. The book has been distributed throughout the U.S. and New Zealand and was released in 2018.

“Sharing My Culture” by Britt’Nee Brower. Photo by Christina Swayney.

“Simple. Modern. Traditional” runs June 24-July 24 and is open Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.