Hidden Joys of Inuit Dolls

11 Sep

You may know that the museum currently has a special exhibition on about Inuit dolls. Recently, the museum photographed the works on display and as we moved through the objects, I began noticing things about the pieces that even I had never seen before (and I have spent a lot of time looking at some of these dolls).

Two dolls in particular stood out among the rest for their hidden surprises. The first is doll from Happy Valley-goose Bay in Nunatsiavut (a land claim area in Labrador). As you might expect, fabric is a finite resource in the Arctic which has to be imported. Sometimes, artists have to make-do with what they have. Whether this fabric choice was a result of a desire to use up some fabric scraps or an intentional choice, it brought a smile to my face when I noticed the pattern used for the pants, which are barely visible during usual circumstances:

"Hunter" (2006) by an unidentified artist, Happy Valley-Goose Bay (Nunatsiavut), leather, stone, fabric, duffel, fur, MIA Collection; The doll as normally displayed...

Hidden underneath are pants made out of fabric with hockey playing frogs!

The second doll is what is known as a packing doll. This style of doll originated in Talurjuak (formerly known as Taloyoak/Spence Bay) in an effort to bring money into the community. These dolls come in a variety of forms, ranging from human to animal, that all wear traditional amauti and have a baby “packed” into their hoods. Oftentimes, the babies stay tucked into the amauti, but when you take them out there are occasional surprises.

"Sedna" (c. 2000s) by an unidentified artist (Talurjuak), Duffel, embroidery thread, felt, MIA Collection

Her baby is sticking its tongue out and has a belly button!

I hope these surprising details made you smile – I know I did. It really does just go to show that careful inspection of objects can produce insightful, new and sometimes just plain fun details that help tell the object’s story and make you look at them just a little differently.

Later this week, I’ll be telling the story of a different set of dolls in the exhibition – and this is one that you definitely won’t want to miss.

– Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator


2 Responses to “Hidden Joys of Inuit Dolls”

  1. Gina Hope September 11, 2011 at 6:03 PM #

    My mom and I saw this and we love it!!!!! She got weepy as we have family up there that we’ve never seen. Anyway thank you from posting this as we’re done in the States. Hope (or at least I do) to see the museum in person!

    • museumofinuitart September 11, 2011 at 7:55 PM #

      I’m so happy to see how happy you are – and we’d be very happy to see you in person if you’re ever in Toronto! We’ll continue posting more about our objects so I hope you enjoy the blog.

      – Alysa

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