Com­ment: Ac­cess to Stone

Inuit Art Quarterly - - CONTENTS - Ja­son Jacque

A dis­cus­sion of the chal­lenges of re­sid­ing in a small com­mu­nity far from a quarry.

Art is wo­ven into the fab­ric of Inuit cul­ture. For cen­turies, we have used nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als col­lected through hunt­ing and gath­er­ing. Ma­te­ri­als such as bone, hides, wood and steatite were, and are, still widely used and con­tinue to be an im­por­tant part of what makes Inuit art unique.

I grew up in a small com­mu­nity on the north coast of Labrador called Postville. With a pop­u­la­tion of 180 peo­ple, it is the small­est com­mu­nity in Nu­natsi­avut and like most places in the North, it is iso­lated. I have been carv­ing since my early teenage years, start­ing with wood as my pri­mary ma­te­rial. I would run down the dirt road to the work­shop of an el­der named Fred Decker, who was known lo­cally for his dog team carv­ings, to watch and learn. I can’t re­mem­ber where I ac­quired my first piece of steatite, but at the time, there were no artists in town work­ing in it and no proper tools to work with; I had teach my­self how to carve it. With no quarry nearby, it is dif­fi­cult and ex­pen­sive to get good qual­ity stone here. De­spite the lack of guid­ance, re­sources, or mar­ket to sell my art, I con­tin­ued carv­ing, and through trial and er­ror, I be­gan to get the hang of it.

Since the 1950s and 60s, the ab­sence of arts in­fra­struc­ture and fed­eral fund­ing for Nu­natsi­avum­miut artists has left us to fend for our­selves. As re­cently as 1991 we were not per­mit­ted to use the Igloo Tag to mar­ket our art as “au­then­tic” Inuit art—a trade­mark I be­came aware of only a few months ago. Al­though we face chal­lenges in grow­ing an arts in­dus­try, it has not di­min­ished our de­sire to cre­ate. I think this is a trait all Inuit share: a need to cre­ate things with our hands. Re­cently, one of my carv­ings was cho­sen to be in­cluded in SakKi­jâjuk: Art and Craft from Nu­natsi­avut, the Inut­ti­tut term mean­ing “to be vis­i­ble” is fit­ting be­cause for too long Nu­natsi­avum­miut have been un­seen in the art world. To be seen and heard is de­sired by all artists; to have their art val­ued, this is the driv­ing force be­hind cre­ativ­ity.

The in­ter­net has also brought vis­i­bil­ity and op­por­tu­ni­ties for artists. Sites such as Iqaluit Auc­tion Bids on Face­book have be­come use­ful tools for me to sell my unique style of jew­ellery made from ivory, baleen, seashells and muskox horn. I still carve with steatite, but rarely, given how dif­fi­cult it is to get, and there re­mains no mar­ket to sell it in Postville. But a qual­ity every artist should have is the abil­ity to adapt. Jew­ellery has be­come my new pas­sion, and the growth in pop­u­lar­ity for what I’m do­ing has sparked a new en­ergy in me to cre­ate. Even though things are not ideal, art will al­ways be apart of my life, and hope­fully, in the fu­ture, Inuit artists in Labrador will con­tinue to gain ground and re­spect in the world of Inuit art.

Photo The Rooms Pro­vin­cial Art Gallery

Ja­son Jacque (b. 1977 Postville) Shaman 2015 Ser­pen­ti­nite, wood, mar­ble and bone 12.7 x 35.6 x 17.8 cm

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