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“This documentary shows the inspiration behind Inuit sculpture. The Inuit approach to the work is to release the image the artist sees imprisoned in the rough stone. The film centres on an old legend about the carving of the image of a sea spirit to bring food to a hungry camp.” (YouTube)

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Inuit Art

Inuit are excellent artists. Many are carvers and make carvings using soapstone. In earlier days, their preference was for walrus ivory. Their art can be found in galleries and museums in Canada’s larger cities: Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, but it seems that Winnipeg has Canada’s finest collection of Inuit art as well as several artists who draw inspiration from Inuit art. Toronto opened its Museum of Inuit Art, in 2007. But Inuit art can also be found in New York at Look North New York. (See Inuit Art)

Inuit carvings are at times very expensive, but they are one of Canada’s national treasures. I was introduced to Inuit carvings in a Toronto store. The owner was very knowledgeable. Inuit are celebrated carvers, but Inuit also produce images that are characterized by permanent newness and, at times, humour. They are heirs to Japonisme.

I chose the film shown at the top of this post not only because of its subject matter, carvings, but also because it contains a legend reflecting the legend of the mermaid. It has stories. The film was produced in 1958 by director John Fenney who also directed a film about Kenojuak Ashevak, (3 October 1927 – 8 January 2013), an acclaimed artist who worked using several media: carving, drawing, print-making, etc.

You may note that Inuit sing often, like voyageurs. They seem a very happy people. Ashevak spoke Inuktitut, the language of Nunavik (Quebec).

The National Film Board: The Land of the Long Day

The National Film Boar/l’Office national du film has a large collection of documentaries on Inuit or the north. I could not find an English-language version of Au pays des jours sans fin. It is a very informative documentary. However, I have just found it: The Land of the Long Day: https://www.nfb.ca/film/land_of_the_long_day.

But let us see a few carvings and, in a short video, the art of Kenojuak and colleagues. Kenojuak is the most celebrated Inuit printmaker (stencils or pochoirs). She died in 2003, at the age of 85.

Inuit Art Muskox by Seepee Ipellie

Inuit Art Muskox by Seepee Ipellie, Cape Dorset, 1980 (freespirtgallery.ca)

Inuit Art Caribou by Osuitok Ipeelee

Inuit Art Caribou by Osuitok Ipeelee (freespiritgallery.ca)

Sources and Resources

My kindest regards to all of you.

Cape Dorset, Kenojuak Ashevak (EN)

CD2014CAL-01_LRG© Micheline Walker
17 May 2015 (first published on 16 May 2015)
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