Whale mural by young Inuit artists a vibrant addition to ByWard Market

Whale mural by young Inuit artists a vibrant addition to ByWard Market

Parr Josephee couldn't take his eyes off the sky-high piece of artwork that graces what used to be a blank wall in the heart of the ByWard Market.

The 18-year-old from Cape Dorset, Nunavut mentored four other Inuit youth to create a massive, colourful mural of a large bowhead whale on the wall of the Bell Media building on George Street.

The mural depicts a tale of a hunter who found a whale that had a more than 100-year-old harpoon deep inside its body. 

The team of youth artists spent 11 days this month painting the wall before unveiling it to the public on Sunday. For two of them, it was their first time being in a large city.

"People from the condos, they come down and they say, 'Oh, I've been watching you painting this. It's been amazing. I don't know what it was at first, but now I can see the scale of it, the shape of it and now I know it's a whale,'" Josephee told a crowd of people at the unveiling.

"So, it's people coming by, getting to know [the kids]."

The mural was a project by the Embassy of Imagination, an arts organization run by artists Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson and others who mentored the youth in the North to bring their ideas to life. 

Josephee, who plans to come back to Ottawa to study Inuit studies at the Nunavut Sivuniksavut school on Rideau Street, said he hopes the mural will bring people together.  

The Embassy of Imagination partnered with the Ottawa School of Art on the project.

The name of the mural is Tunnganarniq, which means "fostering good spirits, by being open, welcoming and inclusive."

Christine Adamie, 13, Kevin Qimirpik, 13, Janice Qimirpik, 15, and Harry Josephee, 17, helped paint the mural.

"I'm so amazed [by] the kids because they've been working so hard trying to get this done as fast as possible … It's the biggest and fastest one we've done," Josephee said. 

"Looking at their reaction is just so amazing."