A Mother’s Day Amauti Lesson

13 May

Time for another intern update!
This week I was able observe a few docent tours and training sessions where our volunteers went through the MIA collection and pointed out fun Inuit facts.

For those of you who have taken part in the MIA’s docent program, you may have been introduced to some “two-headed sculptures” during your tour. These are actually part of a very popular theme in Inuit art and a perfect sculptural reference for Mother’s day!

Mari Kuunnuaq “Mother and Child” (c.1980) in the Museum of Inuit Art Collection

The “second head” belongs to that of a small child, who is being held against the mother’s back by an amauti. While in many artistic depictions it appears as though the baby is nestled in the hood of a parka, they are actually secured in a type of pouch and share the enlarged hood with their mother – so both can be protected from the cold arctic wind.

The amauti is an incredibly practical and multi-functioning piece of clothing. While the mother is busy working with her hands, she can swivel the child behind her. When it’s feeding time, the mother can bring the baby back to her front without needing to take off her warm parka. Not only does the amauti keep the baby sheltered from the harsh environment, but some people have argued that it even strengthens the bond between mother and child because of the close contact they remain in.

On the left is Margaret Notarina “Muskox Pack Doll” (c.2002) and on the right is an unidentified artist (“M.E.”) “Rabbit Pack Doll” (c. mid-200s) from the Museum of Inuit Art Collection.

MIA also has these pack doll examples made of duffle. These guys are definitely on my Top 10 list of favorite MIA pieces, and quite a few visitors from the Playing Favorites blog seem to agree with me.

So to all those mom’s out there. Happy Mother’s Day, and thanks for the lift!

posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Educational Assistant

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