Pic­tur­ing Arc­tic Moder­nity: North Baf­fin Draw­ings from 1964


Inuit Art Quarterly - - CONTENTS - by Nor­man Vo­rano

A cu­ra­tor traces the col­lab­o­ra­tive process in­volved in bring­ing to light an iconic and dy­namic col­lec­tion of draw­ings from Kangiq­tu­gaapik, Mit­ti­mata­lik and Ikpi­ar­juk.

The early 1960s marked the be­gin­ning of a tur­bu­lent era for Inuit in the eastern Arc­tic. Day and res­i­den­tial schools, the ar­rival of the snow­mo­bile and wood-framed homes, among other changes, brought both op­por­tu­nity and pain. Fam­i­lies be­gan to move off of the land and into the grow­ing set­tle­ments, end­ing a way of life known for many gen­er­a­tions. As Sheila Watt-Cloutier, re­cently wrote of this pe­riod, this “jour­ney into the mod­ern world was not an easy one—and it has left its scars.”¹ It was in this mi­lieu that Terry Ryan, artist and Arts Ad­vi­sor for the West Baf­fin Eskimo Co-op­er­a­tive in Kin­ngait (Cape Dorset), NU, saw the im­por­tance of record­ing Inuit vis­ual ex­pres­sion and thought. Ryan had been work­ing in Kin­ngait’s fledg­ling print stu­dio for just three years when, in 1963, he ap­plied to the Canada Coun­cil for the Arts for a grant to sup­port a sim­ple but am­bi­tious idea: he pro­posed to travel to three com­mu­ni­ties in the North Qik­iq­taaluk (Baf­fin Is­land), NU, re­gion and their out­lay­ing en­camp­ments— Kangiq­tu­gaapik (Clyde River), Mit­ti­mata­lik (Pond In­let) and Ikpi­ar­juk (Arc­tic Bay)— where he would dis­trib­ute paper and pen­cils and in­vite peo­ple to “draw any­thing”. By giv­ing peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity to record what they wanted and how they wanted, the project would help doc­u­ment Inuit graphic arts “be­fore the mount­ing in­flu­ences of south­ern civ­i­liza­tion in the Arc­tic re­places the past, and in many cases the still present, mode of liv­ing and think­ing among the Inuit,” as Ryan wrote in his grant pro­posal. In Fe­bru­ary of 1964, Ryan flew to Kangiq­tu­gaapik from Iqaluit. He hired a dog team and guides, Sime­onie Qayak and James Jay­poody, to travel to the en­camp­ments where he dis­trib­uted paper and vis­ited with old friends, like Sakki­asie Ar­reak. For two weeks, slowed by ill­ness and rough ice, Ryan and his guides trav­elled more than 400 kilo­me­ters by dog team to Mit­ti­mata­lik.

He con­tin­ued his ven­ture around the com­mu­nity for sev­eral weeks then flew to Ikpi­ar­juk be­fore re­trac­ing his jour­ney back to Kangiq­tu­gaapik, buy­ing up all the draw­ings on his re­turn. The re­sult­ing col­lec­tion of draw­ings amassed over the course of four months con­sti­tutes one of the most im­por­tant doc­u­men­tary and artis­tic records of Inuit cul­tural and so­cial life in the mid-twen­ti­eth cen­tury. All told the col­lec­tion in­cludes 1,844 draw­ings cre­ated by 87 men and 72 women be­tween the ages of 7 to 70. The draw­ings are sub­stan­tive in size and range in style, am­bi­tion and com­plex­ity. Some are highly rep­re­sen­ta­tional, with sin­gle-point per­spec­tive and del­i­cate shad­ing. Oth­ers are multi-per­spec­ti­val, with flat­tened fig­ures ren­dered in pro­file. The­mat­i­cally, the draw­ings cover an ex­traor­di­nar­ily di­verse ar­ray of sub­jects, in­clud­ing his­tor­i­cal events culled from mem­ory and oral his­tory, hunt­ing and myths and leg­ends, along with many quo­tid­ian snap­shots from ev­ery­day life. Most in­clude Inuk­tut writ­ing, and some, par­tic­u­larly those from Kangiq­tu­gaapik, have no pic­ture at all, but are in­stead com­prised of page upon page of writ­ing that fills the en­tire sheet. The col­lec­tion re­veals a com­pul­sion to record his­tory and tra­di­tional knowl­edge and re­flects the par­tic­i­pants’ de­sire to share their thoughts, hopes, as­pi­ra­tions and anx­i­eties about their lives. Apart from an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Art Gallery of On­tario in 1986, which re­sulted

The re­sult­ing col­lec­tion of draw­ings amassed over the course of four months con­sti­tutes one of the most im­por­tant doc­u­men­tary and artis­tic records of Inuit cul­tural and so­cial life in the mid-twen­ti­eth cen­tury.

in the su­perbly re­searched cat­a­logue North Baf­fin Draw­ings by Jean Blod­gett, the col­lec­tion has es­sen­tially re­mained out of sight for five decades. I had known of this col­lec­tion through Blod­gett’s cat­a­logue, but lit­tle did I know of its full rich­ness, since the cat­a­logue only in­cluded 75 re­pro­duc­tions. In late 2011, when I was Cu­ra­tor of Inuit Art at the Cana­dian Mu­seum of Civ­i­liza­tion (now the Cana­dian Mu­seum of His­tory [CMH]) in Gatineau, QC, I be­gan dis­cus­sions with Ryan about the pos­si­bil­ity of ac­quir­ing the draw­ings for the na­tional col­lec­tion. I ap­proached the North Qik­iq­taaluk com­mu­ni­ties and found broad sup­port, as they felt it im­por­tant to en­sure the col­lec­tion would be kept in­tact as well as ac­ces­si­ble for study and ap­pre­ci­a­tion in a pub­lic mu­seum. In early 2014, the en­tire col­lec­tion of draw­ings was ap­proved for ac­qui­si­tion. That sum­mer, I left the mu­seum to join Queen’s Univer­sity. The project con­tin­ued to move for­ward, now with the sup­port of both in­sti­tu­tions. From our ear­li­est dis­cus­sions, the com­mu­ni­ties of Mit­ti­mata­lik and Kangiq­tu­gaapik ex­pressed an in­ter­est in work­ing with me to cre­ate an ex­hi­bi­tion around the col­lec­tion. I sent dig­i­tal im­ages of all the draw­ings to both com­mu­ni­ties and found in­sti­tu­tional part­ners in Piqqusilirivvik, the Inuit Cul­tural Learn­ing Fa­cil­ity in Kangiq­tu­gaapik, and the Pond In­let Archives. In 2015, with the sup­port of the then Di­rec­tor of Piqqusilirivvik Jonathan Pal­luq, I vis­ited Kangiq­tu­gaapik and be­gan to pour through the col­lec­tion

with ed­u­ca­tors Joelie San­guyuk and Davidee Iqaqri­alu and elder Ilkoo Angutikjuak. The visit be­gan to make clear the vast scale of tra­di­tional knowl­edge em­bed­ded in this draw­ing col­lec­tion, as well as the enor­mity of the task ahead of us. Hud­dled around a wide-screen mon­i­tor, the group would linger over a sin­gle draw­ing for 40 min­utes, care­fully de­lib­er­at­ing the ex­act mean­ings of an Inuk­tut word sel­dom used to­day. In this ini­tial con­sul­ta­tion meet­ing, the broad con­tour of an ex­hi­bi­tion was hashed out: rather than at­tempt to pro­vide a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sur­vey of the col­lec­tion, based on south­ern aes­thetic stan­dards, the ex­hi­bi­tion would call upon the con­tem­po­rary ex­pe­ri­ences of com­mu­nity mem­bers who would se­lect and dis­cuss a draw­ing on video. Af­ter re­ceiv­ing ap­proval from the Queen’s Univer­sity Gen­eral Re­search Ethics Board and the Nu­navut Re­search In­sti­tute, the work to de­velop an ex­hi­bi­tion be­gan. Tina Ku­nil­iusi, from It­taq, the cul­tural her­itage or­ga­ni­za­tion in Kangiq­tu­gaapik, and Philippa Oo­toowak at the Pond In­let Archives in Mit­ti­mata­lik helped co­or­di­nate the project in their re­spec­tive com­mu­ni­ties. In March and April of 2016, I made trips to both Kangiq­tu­gaapik and Mit­ti­mata­lik to be­gin in­ter­view­ing and film­ing for the ex­hi­bi­tion. In Mit­ti­mata­lik, Queen’s Univer­sity art his­tory grad­u­ate stu­dent Rose­mary Legge was on cam­era duty, while CMH Project De­vel­oper Jean-François Léger con­trib­uted im­por­tant in­put on fram­ing the in­ter­views. In Kangiq­tu­gaapik, the videog­ra­phy, trans­lat­ing and rough edit­ing was done by staff at It­taq, Mike Jay­poody and Robert Kau­tak. For the film­maker Mike Jay­poody, the project was es­pe­cially per­sonal since it was his fa­ther, James Jay­poody, who pro­vided guide ser­vices to Ryan in 1964. At the Nat­tin­nak Vis­i­tor Cen­tre, we held a gen­eral pub­lic pre­sen­ta­tion, as well as one for el­ders, to share and dis­cuss the col­lec­tion. These meet­ings sparked much dis­cus­sion, per­sonal re­flec­tion and sur­prise. Few young peo­ple even knew the draw­ings ex­isted and many el­ders had not seen their own draw­ings since they were cre­ated more than 50 years ago, nor did they re­al­ize the full scope and his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance of the col­lec­tion in its en­tirety. It was rev­e­la­tory. Four­teen in­di­vid­u­als were in­ter­viewed on cam­era for the ex­hi­bi­tion, which in­cluded 50 framed draw­ings rep­re­sent­ing the work of 23 artists. A to­tal of 43 short video in­ter­views were cre­ated, each of which was linked to a spe­cific draw­ing. This ap­proach was taken to give vis­i­tors a more in­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence and to bring into fo­cus the var­ied ways the draw­ings are sig­nif­i­cant to con­tem­po­rary iden­ti­ties. In the ex­hi­bi­tion space, videos were pre­sented on two touch mon­i­tors with at­tached me­dia drives, a plug-and-play method of de­liv­ery that would work in the North, where there is a lack of high-speed broad­band. In ad­di­tion to the two mon­i­tors, the videos were also made ac­ces­si­ble in the gallery via quick re­sponse (QR) codes linked to an ex­hi­bi­tion web­site that al­lowed au­di­ences to view the videos on their own mo­bile de­vices as well as mak­ing them ac­ces­si­ble to a vir­tual au­di­ence who could not visit the ex­hibit or spend the en­tire 90 min­utes that would be needed to view every video in the gallery. Also in­cluded was an in-gallery book­let, which in­cluded con­densed trans­la­tions of all the writ­ing on the draw­ings. This was help­ful for au­di­ence mem­bers be­cause many in­ter­vie­wees of­ten used a draw­ing’s text as a jump­ing off point for per­sonal re­flec­tion, eschew­ing a more straight­for­ward ex­pla­na­tion of the im­age. The en­tire ex­hi­bi­tion—videos, web­site, texts and book­lets—was pro­duced in English, French and Inuk­tut. The process of se­lect­ing draw­ings was fluid, with the stan­dards and cri­te­ria shaped by those in­volved. Be­cause the en­tire draw­ing col­lec­tion num­bers over 1,800 works, I made an ini­tial rough se­lec­tion of some 120 works when I first went north to con­duct in­ter­views.

How­ever, I soon re­al­ized that peo­ple wanted to see and dis­cuss many other works not on my ini­tial list. My pot­ted ques­tions sim­ply served to ini­ti­ate con­ver­sa­tion, which in­vari­ably took off in unan­tic­i­pated but fas­ci­nat­ing di­rec­tions as peo­ple scanned the rest of the col­lec­tion (which I had on my com­puter), stop­ping on draw­ings that piqued their in­ter­est. Sev­eral of the more se­nior in­ter­vie­wees would qui­etly ex­am­ine a draw­ing for sev­eral mo­ments, read the text on the front and back and, with a nearly im­per­cep­ti­ble nod for the cam­era op­er­a­tor, break into a thought­ful re­flec­tion. Some in­ter­vie­wees, like Ham Kad­loo, spoke in short, punchy bursts that were ide­ally suited to the ex­hi­bi­tion for­mat. Oth­ers in­ter­vie­wees, like Ilkoo Angutikjuak, used the draw­ings to launch into longer, me­an­der­ing sto­ries and rec­ol­lec­tions. In the end, the in­ter­views guided the fi­nal se­lec­tion of draw­ings. In­di­vid­u­als of­ten picked draw­ings that they had a per­sonal con­nec­tion to, such as Solomon Koonoo dis­cussing Ja­cob Peter­loosie’s draw­ing Tor­ment­ing a Po­lar Bear. Peter­loosie’s pic­ture de­picts sev­eral youth—one of whom was a young Koonoo—run­ning away from an at­tack­ing bear. One of the youth had fallen at the bear’s feet, with his gun knocked away. Koonoo’s in­ter­view of­fered a first-per­son rec­ol­lec­tion, not just of the dra­matic mo­ment cap­tured in the draw­ing, but also of the events lead­ing up to the bear at­tack and af­ter­ward. Koonoo ends his in­ter­view with a self-dep­re­cat­ing chuckle: “It was the first time we got a bear, and we had some­one bit­ten by it!” Joanna Kun­nuk, dis­cussing the late Jemima An­ge­lik Nu­tarak’s draw­ing of sewing pat­terns, spoke elo­quently of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of women, while ac­knowl­edg­ing that al­though she takes great pride in her own sewing to­day, “younger peo­ple are not as knowl­edge­able of the old pat­terns.” Many com­men­ta­tors, young or old, saw the draw­ings as repos­i­to­ries of tra­di­tional Inuit knowl­edge. The lin­guist and ed­u­ca­tor Eli­jah Tigullaraq said dur­ing an in­ter­view, “The draw­ings are unique; they are dif­fer­ent. They are about Inuit his­tory, the lan­guage, the cul­ture—cloth­ing, liv­ing, leg­ends, an­i­mals, ev­ery­thing for men and women.” Edit­ing of the videos took place in Kangiq­tu­gaapik and Kingston, ON, while copies of the raw in­ter­views re­mained in both com­mu­ni­ties. Given the dif­fi­culty of the lan­guage (the syl­labic writ­ing in 1964 did not use finals), gen­der dif­fer­ences and re­gional di­alects, a to­tal of four trans­la­tors were em­ployed to trans­late the draw­ings and the videos, the lat­ter of which was ac­com­plished via pe­ri­odic up­loads to YouTube and reg­u­lar email. Adding to the com­pli­ca­tion of work­ing with many in­di­vid­u­als, trans­la­tors, in­ter­preters and or­ga­ni­za­tions in Nu­navut was the fact that this ex­hi­bi­tion was

“The draw­ings are unique, they are dif­fer­ent. They are about Inuit his­tory, the lan­guage, the cul­ture—cloth­ing, liv­ing, leg­ends, an­i­mals, ev­ery­thing for men and women.” ELI­JAH TIGULLARAQ

co-pro­duced by the Agnes Ether­ing­ton Art Cen­tre and the Cana­dian Mu­seum of His­tory. To say the ex­hi­bi­tion had many mov­ing parts would be an un­der­state­ment. In Jan­uary of 2017, Pic­tur­ing Arc­tic Moder­nity: North Baf­fin Draw­ings from 1964 opened at the Agnes Ether­ing­ton Art Cen­tre at Queen’s Univer­sity. Be­tween Au­gust 26 and Oc­to­ber 8 of 2017, a con­densed se­lec­tion from the ex­hi­bi­tion will be at the Nu­natta Su­nakku­taan­git Mu­seum in Iqaluit be­fore seg­ments are sent to Mit­ti­mata­lik and Kangiq­tu­gaapik. The en­tire ex­hi­bi­tion opens at the Cana­dian Mu­seum of His­tory in Fe­bru­ary of 2018, fol­lowed by other venues across Canada. Many of the el­ders and youth in Kangiq­tu­gaapik and Mit­ti­mata­lik ac­knowl­edged Terry Ryan’s fore­sight and ex­pressed heart­felt grat­i­tude for his work in so­lic­it­ing and pre­serv­ing these draw­ings. But what also be­came ap­par­ent dur­ing the in­ter­views was the fact that many north­ern­ers re­main largely alien­ated from their own cul­tural her­itage in south­ern mu­se­ums. Ex­hi­bi­tions are fleet­ing, but ev­i­dence shows that mu­seum col­lec­tions can play a pro­foundly trans­for­ma­tive and pos­i­tive role in the recla­ma­tion of In­dige­nous cul­tural iden­tity, health and so­cial well-be­ing. Al­though the ac­qui­si­tion of the draw­ings and the col­lab­o­ra­tive de­vel­op­ment of Pic­tur­ing Arc­tic Moder­nity took sev­eral years, it is re­ally just a start­ing point. I am now work­ing with var­i­ous cul­tural and her­itage or­ga­ni­za­tions in Nu­navut to dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­ity of de­vel­op­ing a re­cip­ro­cal re­search net­work around this col­lec­tion that would use con­tem­po­rary dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies to link north­ern com­mu­ni­ties with the mu­seum and Queen’s Univer­sity. Such a net­work will em­power com­mu­ni­ties, foster cross-cul­tural and cross-gen­er­a­tional un­der­stand­ings and pro­vide on­go­ing north­ern ac­cess to these draw­ings, so that they can be used in schools, by her­itage groups and by other re­searchers. The North Qik­iq­taaluk draw­ings have al­ready traced an in­cred­i­ble jour­ney, but their most im­por­tant jour­ney may be still to come.


Jemima An­ge­lik Nu­tarak (b. 1915 Mit­ti­mata­lik) — String Games and Aya­gaq 1964 Graphite 50 × 65 cm


In­stal­la­tion view of Pic­tur­ing Arc­tic Moder­nity: North Baf­fin Draw­ings from 1964 at the Agnes Ether­ing­ton Art Cen­tre at Queen’s Univer­sity, 2017

LEFT Toon­ga­look (1912–1967 Ikpi­ar­juk) — What I Had Seen a Long Time Ago 1964 Graphite 65 × 50 cm

BE­LOW Ilkoo Angutikjuak, Joelie San­guyuk and Davidee Iqaqri­alu ex­am­in­ing dig­i­tal copies of the draw­ings in Kangiq­tu­gaapik, July 16, 2015

BE­LOW Ja­cob Peter­loosie (b. 1930 Mit­ti­mata­lik) — Tor­ment­ing a Po­lar Bear 1964 Graphite 65 × 50 cm

RIGHT In­stal­la­tion view of Pic­tur­ing Arc­tic Moder­nity: North Baf­fin Draw­ings from 1964 at the Agnes Ether­ing­ton Art Cen­tre at Queen’s Univer­sity, 2017 PHOTO PAUL LITHERLAND

NOTE ¹ Sheila Watt-Cloutier, The Right to Be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Pro­tect­ing Her Cul­ture, the Arc­tic and the Whole Planet (Toronto: Pen­guin Canada Books, 2015). Ly­dia Ata­gootak (b. 1913 Mit­ti­mata­lik) — Women’s Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties Then and Now 1964 Graphite 50 × 65 cm

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