SakKi­jâjuk: Art and Craft from Nu­natsi­avut

Inuit Art Quarterly - - CONTENTS - Jen­nifer McVeigh

At the en­trance to SakKi­jâjuk: Art and Craft from Nu­natsi­avut, The Ge­orge River Herd (1996) is dis­played under glass. Placed low, it al­lows the viewer an aerial per­spec­tive of the an­i­mals caught in mid-ac­tion. Del­i­cate and de­tailed, each cari­bou is carved in pale wood—some young and tiny, some broad and burly, with lanky teenagers in be­tween. It is clear from artist Ch­es­ley Flow­ers’ (1916-1998) pre­cise com­po­si­tion that this group moves as one unit. It is also clear that this work is meant to be dis­played in this en­vi­ron­ment; it was built to sit on a plinth, in a mu­seum, and the re­sult is in­cred­i­bly ef­fec­tive.

Cu­rated by Dr. Heather Iglo­liorte, SakKi­jâjuk is the first na­tion­ally tour­ing ex­hi­bi­tion of Inuit art from Nu­natsi­avut. The ex­hi­bi­tion and ac­com­pa­ny­ing cat­a­logue de­tail how art from the re­gion has been ig­nored, dis­missed, de­bated, bought, sold and dis­played since first con­tact with Euro­peans, usu­ally by any­one but Inuit them­selves.

The chal­lenge and re­spon­si­bil­ity of this history is cap­tured in the thought­ful or­ga­ni­za­tion of the

ex­hi­bi­tion. The gallery spans four gen­er­a­tions of artists from 1949 to the present day—El­ders, Trailblazers, Fire Keep­ers and The Next Gen­er­a­tion—a struc­ture that em­pha­sizes change, en­ergy and sur­vival.

Be­yond Flow­ers’ herd, a tall dis­play case con­tains three jack­ets—an em­broi­dered wool jacket by Su­san­nah Iglo­liorte (1917-1992), a wo­ven amauti (woman’s parka) in shades of blue by Chantelle An­der­sen and a lush, seal­skin jacket by So­phie Pa­mak. Each is beau­ti­fully crafted and lay­ered with nar­ra­tive through the ma­te­ri­als, im­agery and tech­niques em­ployed by each artist. How­ever, dis­played on anony­mous hu­man forms be­hind glass, they de­note both a pres­ence and an ab­sence—of the women who cre­ated them, of those who did or might still wear them and of the cul­ture they rep­re­sent. It is a cu­ra­to­rial choice that en­gages with the some­times prob­lem­atic re­la­tion­ships be­tween artists and the in­sti­tu­tions in which they are rep­re­sented.

The ex­hi­bi­tion is in­cred­i­bly dense, in­cor­po­rat­ing a wide va­ri­ety of prac­tices across more than 80 pieces. With an­no­tated felt tip pen draw­ings mounted on file fold­ers la­beled with terms like “Fes­tive Dress” and “Tra­di­tional Foods”, Josephina Kalleo (1920-1993), in El­ders, doc­u­ments and com­mu­ni­cates as clearly as pos­si­ble the world around her, while Shirley Moor­house (Trailblazers) es­tab­lishes a uni­verse all her own through wall hang­ings that de­pict night skies and oceans team­ing with life, ren­dered in painterly ges­tures of leather, fab­ric and thread. Heather Camp­bell’s draw­ing 7th Gen­er­a­tion Inuit Com­mu­nity, in­cluded in Fire Keep­ers, of­fers a vi­sion of a fu­ture Rigo­let, lush and green due to global warm­ing, where the com­mu­nity has adapted with wind power and green­houses under glass domes. In The Next Gen­er­a­tion sec­tion, artist Ryan Win­ters takes a cine­matic ap­proach to doc­u­ment­ing the re­al­i­ties of ev­ery­day life.

In her cat­a­logue es­say, Jenna Joyce Broom­field writes of this ex­hi­bi­tion as an act of sel­f­rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Of­ten con­nected with po­lit­i­cal self-gov­er­nance, it is poignant to view this term in the con­text of ma­te­rial cul­ture. This ex­hi­bi­tion marks a sig­nif­i­cant break with ex­ist­ing nar­ra­tive. Mul­ti­fac­eted and care­fully con­sid­ered, it sheds light on a world of cre­ative prac­tices that can only be­gin to be ex­plored here.

Michael Massie

(b.1962 Happy Val­ley Goose Bay) Grand­fa­ther I Have Some­thing to Tell You 2004 An­hy­drite, bone, Bird­s­eye maple, ma­hogany and ebony 43.8 x 24.1 x 30.5 cm The Rooms Pro­vin­cial Art Gallery Col­lec­tion

Op­po­site:

In­stal­la­tion view show­ing gar­ments by (left to right) Su­san­nah Iglo­liorte, Chantelle An­der­sen and So­phie Pa­mak with draw­ings by Josephina Kalleo in the back­ground Cour­tesy The Rooms

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