INUIT ART AT CAPE DORSET, NUNAVUT, ARCTIC CANADA


Prologue

In one of these never ending arctic polar nights when only some ravens were loafing through the icy roads of Cape Dorset loudly cawing, the pretty hard polar wind had only one intention whispered at the next corner: I have to find the shaman of Nunavut to raise my question that why is the owl not that what it seems to resemble. But the shaman was very busy because he had an important appointment with the other world which cannot be found in a snow crystal or the sky with all its strange sparkling stars.

Shamanhunter, 2015, carving by Pitseolak Qimirpik

This made the wind quite upset, angry and naughty because the wind could never visit this special shaman’s world. So he embraced and fixed the shaman with his mighty icy robot-arms and blew him in a short moment which lasted less than a second all over the ocean westwards into the far away German landscape of Berlin. Now, the shaman-hunter is standing in front of me in my room completely frozen and fixed to a serpentine stone, and my calendar utters simply breathless that we are right now in November 2017.

Emblem of Nunavut

The land of the Inuit is called Nunavut written in their own language like this ᓄᓇᕗᑦ. This term means simply our home-land and stretches over a big arctic territory in the North of Canada. The Inuit culture is – in remote settlements partly until today – a relatively uniform hunting culture, which until the middle of the 20th century, was specialized on the hunting of marine mammals (seals, walruses, whales), but also of land based animals (caribou, polar bears). The social structure of the traditional Inuit society was largely egalitarian which means that each person had basically the same access to resources and there were only very small differences in rank.

Arctic Madonna, 1980, drawing by Pittaloosi Saila

In the 1960s, the Canadian government funded the establishment of secular, government-operated high schools in the Northwest Territories (including what is now Nunavut) and Inuit areas in Quebec and Labrador along with the residential school system.  This was a real wake-up call for the Inuit, and it stimulated the emergence of a new generation of young Inuit activists in the late 1960s who came forward and pushed for respect for the Inuit, their culture and territories.

View on Cape Dorset in May 1997, photo by Ansgar Walk

Cape Dorset is an Inuit village at the Southern tip of Baffin Island  in the Qikiqtaaluk Region of Nunavut, Canada. The Inuktitut name is Kinngait ᑭᙵᐃᑦ  which stands simply for high mountain as to be seen on the photo. In 2016 the population comprised 1,411 residents, an increase of 5,7 % compared to 2006. A handful of unnamed dirt/gravel roads (unpaved because of winter conditions) cross the village but do not connect beyond Cape Dorset.  Near the village the remains of the Thule (Tuniit, Dorset Culture) were discovered who lived between 1,000 BC and 1,100 AD. Cape Dorset was named by Captain Luke Fox after Edward Sackville, 4th Earl of Dorset, on 24 September 1631.

First craft centre of Cape Dorset in the 1950s

Caribou, 1957-1958, experimental print by Kananginak Pootoogook

Cape Dorset is also known as the capital of Inuit art, since the 1950s the place has been a centre for drawing, printmaking and carving. Today these ambitions continue to be the community’s main economic activities with some 22 % of the labour force employed in the arts. In 1957, James Archibald Houston, created a graphic arts workshop right here which was considered a away for the community to generate income by adapting traditional art forms to contemporary techniques. The artists have much experimented with etching, engraving, lithography and silkscreen. They produce annual catalogs advertising the limited edition prints. The most wellknown artist from Cape Dorset is Nuna Parr, his carvings are internationally recognized and his work is exhibited in the National Gallery of Canada.

Cover of Inuit art-booklet from 1988
by Pangnirtung Eskimo Co-operative, Baffin Island

Raven’s Earth, 1995, stonecut by Mayoreak Ashoona

In the old Inuit mythology the raven was seen as creator of the entire world and all living beings with beats of his wings. He also had the power of both a man and a bird, and could change easily from one to the other simply by pulling his beak over his head as one lifts a mask. According their tradition the first human being was born from a pea-pod plant, because the raven also filled the land with growing pea-pod plants, and when after some time one of the pea-pods burst open, out popped a fully grown human being, the first to walk around raven’s earth.

Seadiver, 1998, carving by Itulu Itidluie

A local carver at his workshop, photo by Ansgar Walk

The “Shamanhunter” and “Raven’s Earth” are also to be found at my home, these fascinating works inspired me to writing this feature about a strange and unique place where I have not been so far. So this post here is also my anticipative call for discovering endless Canada sometime in reality.

Quiviuq, 1973, printing by Armand Tagoona and Ruby Arngna’naaq

 

Linked to Cathy’s wanderessence blog:

anticipation & preparation: egypt in 2007

 

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suburban tracks

I like travelling through the diverse realities and cultures of this world not only as a tourist. Nature, history of ancient sites or creative works are fascinating me however also abandoned places or ordinary things can be just magical and amazing. The multiple aspects and rich diversity of our blue planet need to be however nourished and protected. Please be so kind to respect that all texts, graphics or photos in this blog are protected by copyright. Unless otherwise mentioned by naming the individuali author, creator, designer or photographer all copyrights hold by suburban tracks. This is moreover an AWARD FREE BLOG! Thank you in advance for appreciation and kind understanding.

18 thoughts on “INUIT ART AT CAPE DORSET, NUNAVUT, ARCTIC CANADA”

    1. These stonecuts and printings are “modern” expression-forms of an old culture for earning some really needed money, and life is really expensive there due to high transportation costs! Traditionally such symbolism was cultivated by the Inuit women on self-made clothes or blankets. Nice weekend @ Ulli

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I am very pleased to draw the attention on this culture – somehow at the end of the world – being also now threatened by the ongoing climate change.Some Inuit communities already had to move to other lications due the defreezing permafrost soll (similar problems also in Siberia). But here I mainly wanted to show a little bit their fascinating art and view on our common world 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What beautiful art and what a hard life in such a secluded community. But how wonderful that Inuit art and culture are being preserved and that new generations are carrying the culture and art into the future. Cape Dorset seems a fascinating place to visit as the capital of Inuit art. Where did you get the Inuit art that you currently own? Do you have a plan to visit this place in the near future?

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Ulli. I love how the art is calling you to this magical and mystical place. I’ll add it to my “Call to Place” post on July 25. Thanks so much for the link. 🙂

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    1. It is a strange place, isn’t it? But, Cape Dorset is connected to the world with a regular Canadian post-office, a small airport and of course also internet. Now, the carved shamanhunter I have bought online in Cape Dorset (Cape Dorset Fine Art), the stonecut I bought online with the Inuit Art Museum in Toronto. Shipping via sea took sometime but both items received safely after around 6 weeks (also the one shipped from Cape Dorset), thanks to the phantastic international postal services. Art catalogues and small booklets (made mostly in Nunavut) I have bought via eBay transactions in the USA and Canada. Some research work required finalizing all this. I intend to go to Canada, but going to Nunavut really very expensive (minimum 3,000 CAD from Ottawa airport for 4 days in Nunavut and Cape Dorset with organized culture trip), a lot of money for such a short time. Need to think about this small expedition really again. The world has become small 🙂 and a nice weekend 💥

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      1. It does seem to be an unusual place, but I tend to gravitate to these secluded artsy areas. I hope you do go, because if it’s as expensive as you say, I will probably never make it. If you go, I can travel vicariously through your blog! 🙂

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      2. 🙂 I will now be more “cautious” what I write in this blog, Cathy 🛌 because at home it is also nice and pretty much to discover also here 🚴‍♀️but I had expected such an ambition 🤔 therefore I looked in booking.com a few days ago for free beds in Cape Dorset’s only hotel but all rooms actually occupied 💢 such an expedition requires some precautionary preparations long time in advance really and what will be next summer I can’t predict in the time being 🥳

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      3. I know we change our minds many times about travel plans and dreams. I’m always shifting my dreams around from year to year and month to month. That’s why I wait until the last minute to write about a place I plan to visit. Otherwise, I write about how I prepared for places I visited in the past. And of course, there is always something to explore close to home. Enjoy what remains of your weekend, Ulli. 🙂

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      4. I feel a deep relation to this place although I have never been there, sounds crazy and irreal, also therefore I am hesitating right now. The call is very clear, however, deep in me, a good reason to follow whereever ….

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