Genocide No. 1, 1971
acrylic on board
61 x 76 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 40766)
Daphne Odjig's paintings interweave her Potawatomi-Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) and English heritage with art historical traditions. Through expressive brushwork, curvilinear line, and entwined forms, Odjig creates charged compositions that articulate themes of human suffering, spirituality, and the Anishinaabe concept of the circle of life. The reddish, earth-toned palette and swirling lines in "Genocide No. 1" evoke a sense of distress, addressing colonialism and the trauma experienced by Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. The funeral of the artist's first husband, Paul Somerville, is depicted in the early work "Infinite Cycle". The figures in black are family members while the white human-like forms that surround them represent ancestral spirits who provide guidance through life. The human relationship to nature is conveyed in "From Mother Earth Flows the River of Life", in which a mother figure shoulders a medicine wheel and emanates life force.