Benjamin Chee Chee

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Benjamin Chee Chee
Benjamin Chee Chee.jpg
Born(1944-03-26)26 March 1944
Temagami, Ontario, Canada
Died14 March 1977(1977-03-14) (aged 32)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Known for Painting
Movement Woodland School of Art

Kenneth Thomas Chee Chee (26 March 1944 – 14 March 1977 [1] ), known as Benjamin Chee Chee, was an Ojibwa Canadian artist born in Temagami, Ontario. [2]


Early life

Chee Chee's early life was troubled and he lost track of his mother, for whom he spent many years searching. He moved to Montreal in 1965 where he developed his love of drawing, and moved back to Ottawa in 1973. [3]

Goose in Flight, an original Chee Chee painting as seen in The Canadian Encyclopedia Benjamincheechee-gooseinflight.jpg
Goose in Flight, an original Chee Chee painting as seen in The Canadian Encyclopedia


Chee Chee's first exhibition was held in 1973 at the University of Ottawa. [2] Soon after he gained fame as he developed his unique style of clear graceful lines and minimal colour, depicting birds and animals. Though his art featured a great deal of iconography often used by Canadian First Nations artists, Chee Chee had denied his art had symbolic meaning. He instead referred to the animals featured in his art as "creatures of the present". [3] He also specifically referred to himself as an Ojibway artist, as opposed to allowing himself to be categorized under the broader net of simply an "Indian" artist.


After finding his mother and achieving success as an artist, Chee Chee died by suicide in an Ottawa jail in 1977. [4] He was buried in Notre Dame Cemetery in Ottawa, Ontario. [1] Chee Chee's work has been exhibited posthumously throughout Canada.


Chee Chee has been mentioned in Canada's Parliament & House of Commons by MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette in a tribute to the artist about his influence.

Ouellette said "Let us also recognize one of the finest artists of Canada, Benjamin Chee Chee. He always refused to be an indigenous artist; he was a proud Anishnabeg. He drew simple lines, usually acrylic on paper. Highly influential in his time, he said he did not paint the past but the present, the living of today. We can see his works, like the flock of four geese. They represent the four directions of the unborn, the youth, the adults and the elders all moving in the same direction. Even though he died in tragedy and is buried in Ottawa, far from his land and people, he still inspires today."

Anthony Rota, Speaker of the House of Commons and Member of Parliament (Nipissing–Timiskaming) announced that the Government of Canada is investing $97,200 in the Temiskaming Art Gallery to support its exhibit of the work of Ojibwa artist Benjamin Chee Chee. Mr. Rota made the announcement on behalf of the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism. The investment was made through the Access to Heritage component of the Museums Assistance Program, will allow the "Benjamin Chee Chee: Life and Legacy Tour" to travel to communities throughout Northern Ontario over the next three years. This funding promotes collaboration in the preservation of Indigenous culture and helps support the Government of Canada's commitment to reconciliation.

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  1. 1 2 "Find-a-grave site". Archived from the original on 12 April 2019.
  2. 1 2 "Native artist Benjamin Cheechee". Archived from the original on 12 April 2019. Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  3. 1 2 Phillips, Ruth B. "Benjamin Chee Chee". Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  4. Evans, Al (2004). Chee Chee: A Study of Aboriginal Suicide. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. ISBN   978-0-7735-7178-5.