Joseph Sagaj is an independent Canadian Indigenous artist. He is Anishnaabe of the Sturgeon Clan from the remote and isolated community of 300 people of Neskantaga, 433 km northeast of Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Joseph moved to Toronto to pursue his dreams and attended the Ontario College of Arts. He graduated in Fine Arts from the Ontario College of Art & Design in 1985 and has actively contributed to the industry for over 25 years. He specializes in private and public commissions, logo designs, murals, acrylic painting projects, and illustrations for publications.
Despite all struggles and challenges being an artist in the industry pose, Joseph followed his passion. In 1992, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) chose Joseph’s logo as the winning design.
Since then, Joseph has worked on various private and public projects for which he created logos, mural paintings, book illustrations, and event and festival posters. Including the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada’s (INAC) 2005/06 Time Planner on the “Thirteen Moons” calendar, which features tales, and legends and describes “a way of life” for the Aboriginal people both in the past and present.
The Art Life
In 2017, the Ministry of the Attorney General, Aboriginal Justice Division in Toronto, commissioned Joseph for a series of paintings, “Seven Teachings and Seven Stages of Life.” These paintings are prominently displayed at their workplace and offer a glimpse of the culture and values of the Anishnaabe people.
In 2018, Joseph completed a commissioned project for Seneca College in Toronto. It was a 30-foot-diameter Terrazzo floor installation for the new Center for Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship building at their Newnham Campus.
By way of teachings, ceremonies, elders, and community resources, this design integrates culture, heritage, spirituality, and a system of governance that reflects and emphasizes Indigenous knowledge of the Inuit, Metis, and First Nations of the Great Lakes and Upper Regions. The design has won many recognitions in Canada and the United States for its beauty and complexity and has been featured in many publications.
In 2018, Joseph created a mural at the Matawa Educational Center in Thunder Bay, which was featured on the front page of the Thunder Bay Chronicle.
To encourage children and youth participation in arts, Joseph has collaborated with the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT) to develop presentations in social media on the Early On Indigenous Language and Family Program. In 2021, Joseph worked with the NCCT Youth and the ENAGB Youth Program in Toronto.
Back To The Roots
In Neskantaga, Joseph did art with children in mask-making on the theme of Aboriginals that reflected the teachings, stories, and their way of life. Joseph started “The Northern Lights Collective” five years ago with his friends. They collect, pack, and ship art supplies, books, sporting goods, and camping gear to remote areas and young people in need. Many donors, artists, friends, organizations, and corporations have contributed to this accomplishment.
Joseph finds courage, a sense of success, and the chance to give back to his communities despite the constant struggles, dealing with global realities, and overcoming obstacles.
Joseph Sagaj has a 30-year career where he has shared and emphasized his Anishnaabe ancestry and heritage and featured his Indigenous knowledge, culture, and teachings at the forefront of all works.
The Toronto-based Indigenous Canadian artist, Joseph Sagaj, lives and works in Toronto. To know more about his work, visit the website at https://joseph-sagaj-independent-canadian-indigenous-artist.business.site/.
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