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