Thursday, April 18, 2024
Golga Oscar showcases Yup'ik culture at Fashion Week.

Golga Oscar showcases Yup’ik culture at Fashion Week.

Dream Parka to Center Stage: Yup’ik-inspired Designs by Golga Oscar

It took two years for Golga Oscar to finish a fur parka that appeared in a dream. The parka design was a gift from two elders and was made out of wolf and mink fur, materials traditionally worn by the Yup’ik people of Alaska. The bottom of the parka had black and white embroidery and the arms were lined with a black stripe, something Oscar had never seen before on a Yup’ik style parka. That parka will be one of the centerpieces of Fashion Week Minnesota’s Northern Lights Native Nations Fashion Night.

Highlighting Yup’ik and Anishinaabeg Cultures

Oscar is headlining as the main Alaskan designer, along with two other Indigenous artists, in the Native Nations Fashion Night show. The show is dedicated to showcasing the lifeways of Yup’ik Alaskan and Great Lakes Woodlands Anishinaabeg cultures. “What connects the three of us designers together are the Northern Lights, which happens in the wintertime and springtime,” said Delina White, Native apparel designer and organizer of the show.

Bridging Cultural Divides

Oscar is a two-spirit artist from a small, rural village in western Alaska and is also a member of the Yup’ik Nation, an Indigenous group in west and southwest Alaska. “I want to tell the world that the term Eskimo doesn’t really define the majority of Alaskan Natives,” said Oscar. “My work represents Yup’ik culture and defines a specific tribe other than the term Eskimo.”

A Distinctive Art Form

Oscar is a self-taught artist specializing in sewing, beading, carving, and basket weaving. Oscar’s work, which includes parkas, headdresses, and mukluk boots, draws inspiration from archived photography collections of Yup’ik traditional clothing and books on cultural history. “To have Oscar’s artwork and a piece of his traditional cultural arts in Minneapolis is really special, rare and unique because it doesn’t happen often,” said White. “His work is beautiful and such a distinctive art form.”

Passion for Decolonizing Indigenous Culture

Art saved Oscar’s life from “Western ideology and Western toxicity.” When Oscar’s not working on a new parka or headdress, they teach Yup’ik language and arts at a local school in their village with an emphasis on decolonizing Indigenous culture. “I’m doing this for myself, my family, and especially my community and my students,” said Oscar. “I want them to understand that pursuing artistry, pursuing your culture, pursuing your identity can bring you to many places and unveil a lot of hidden facts about your cultural identity, and the history behind it.”

Opportunity to Showcase Yup’ik Design to a Wider Audience

Fashion Week Minnesota will be Oscar’s first fashion show outside of Alaska. “The parka design was really elegant and beautiful,” Oscar, 25, said. “One of the very unique parkas that I never seen in my life.” Tickets for the Northern Lights fashion show start at $75 and are available at fashionweekmn.com.

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A man smiles in a portrait

Designer Golga Oscar, 25, will appear in Fashion Week Minnesota on Tuesday, April 25, 2023.

Courtesy Golga Oscar

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