I Heard the Drums


120 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-7737-2974-7
DDC 759.11





Reviewed by Patricia Morley

Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian studies at
Concordia University, and the author of Kurlek, Margaret Laurence: The
Long Journey Home, and As Though Life Mattered: Leo Kennedy’s Story.


Cree artist Allen Sapp of Saskatchewan is one of Canada’s primary
Native painters. Unlike the style of Ojibwa painter Norval Morrisseau of
Ontario, Sapp’s style is fairly realistic; indeed, the first
comparison—an unavoidable one—is with the work of William Kurelek.
Kurelek’s prairie scenes depict his boyhood on farms in Alberta and
Manitoba, and his home life within a Ukrainian-Canadian community.
Sapp’s bold and colorful paintings vividly re-create life in a Cree
community half a century ago, a life that was still very close to nature
and to traditional Nativeways.

Sapp has been painting for 30 years. I Heard the Drums is the second
book of his paintings, after Two Spirits Soar (1990). The new collection
includes full-page color reproductions of 75 paintings, along with an
autobiographical essay. The painter writes about growing up on the Red
Pheasant Reserve near North Battleford in a warm family amid a strong
Native community. Both text and paintings show the intimate details of
survival and the parts played by young and old. The boy helped feed
chickens, cut wood in the bush, search for game, and get water. Sapp’s
life was not always easy, but he prefers to remember in his paintings
the happier days of his childhood. His images of Cree culture and Cree
spirituality make up a social and religious history as well as a fine
body of art.


Sapp, Allen., “I Heard the Drums,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/5716.