Tag Archives: inuit

Stories by the Qulliq

29 Dec
qulliq

A qulliq lamp burning whale blubber to keep the iglu warm. Photo by Brendan Griebel, 2012.

This past weekend the museum hosted “Stories by the Qulliq” where a series a of children’s stories illustrated several popular Inuit legends and myths. But what exactly is a qulliq?

Qulliq or Kudlik (ᖁᓪᓕᖅ) is the traditional oil lamp used by Inuit. Typically carved from stone, it takes a rounded shape with a depression at the top to hold the seal oil used as fuel. Prior to electricity and hydro becoming available in the Arctic this lamp acted as the only source of light and heat for Inuit. During the periods of perpetual winter darkness, the qulliq would have burned almost continuously inside the house. It also doubled as a stove.

Tending to the qulliq was commonly a woman’s job and was truly an art in itself. Cubes of blubber were placed on the lamp’s concave surface. A blubber pounder was used to crush the blubber, pressing out the precious oil it contained. The lamp wick, made from moss or cotton grass, was soaked in this oil and arranged on a line along the edge of the lamp. Prior to Inuit having access to matches, they would use a bow drill or two flint stones to create a spark to ignite the lamp. Once the lamp was lit, it required constant attention and trimming to ensure that the flames were the right height, that it wasn’t producing too much smoke, and that it wouldn’t go out.

qulliq

This qulliq is from the museums Educational Collection so visitors can get up close and see one in person.

While visitors listened to the tiny tale of the Inugarulligaarjuit in “Ava and the Little Folk” or sat in suspense during “The Spirit of the Sea” our very own qulliq was on display. Our collection also holds contemporary interpretations of the lamp. Notice anything different?

fire spirits rising

“Fire Spirits Rising” (2008) by David Ruben Piqtoukun (1951 – ) Paulatuk, stone, charcoal

This piece by David Ruben Piqtoukun, is now on display inside the museum. You can find it in our Abstract case where you can learn more about the Follow You Art program.

Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Digital Assets Coordinator

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Adopt an Object: Untitled (Walrus Amulet)

14 Jan
Walrus amulet

This walrus amulet from the  Thule period is part of the MIA’s new Adopt an Object fundraising initiative.

As part of  the MIA’s new fundraising initiative ‘Adopt an Object’, we’ll be highlighting a featured item from our Permanent Collection that staff have chosen to represent some of  the unique pieces we display in the museum. For more information on the program itself and what it means to be a donor, you can check out our past blog post.

Today, we’re highlighting a staff favourite – a walrus amulet.

Artist: Unidentified
Location: 
Arctic Canada
Date: Thule Period (1000 – c.1650)
Medium: Ivory, pigment
Dimensions:  H 0.5″ x W 1.5″ x D 0.5″
Collection: MIA Collection

Significance: This piece was created by the Thule who are the direct ancestors of modern Inuit. The Walrus Amulet is one of the more figural pieces in our collection from this period, which is quite unique as most Thule art is more abstract and utilitarian. Help us preserve one of our oldest and most sensitive pieces in the collection by adopting this piece.

Adoption rate: $150

To adopt this piece, contact our curator Alysa at aprocida [at] miamuseum [do-t] ca.

UPDATE: This piece has recently been adopted by a generous donor and is no longer available. 

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Posted by Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Visitor Services Officer

Be Part of MIA: Adopt an Object

11 Jan

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This year, MIA is  really excited to launch a new fundraising program: Adopt an Object!

Supporters of art made by Inuit can now select a piece of the museums Permanent Collection currently on display and symbolically “adopt” that piece for a one year term. MIA’s staff members have selected some of their favourite objects as candidates for adoption based on their unique characteristics, notable history and impressive craftsmanship. Each of these pieces will be highlighted in future blog posts, so be sure to check back in and see our selection.

The ‘Adoption Package’ includes:

  • a photograph and description of the piece you have chosen to adopt, which you can proudly display in your home, office or classroom
  • names of individuals will be entitled to have their names listed as Adopters on the object labels within the museum space
  • recognition on our websites Donors’ page
  • name included in the museum’s Annual Report
  • invitation to a special cocktail reception to thank all participants for their generous contributions to the museum
  • additional programming opportunities are also available upon discussion with the Associate Curator Alysa Procida

All funds raised from this initiative will go directly into the educational programming and continued preservation of MIA’s collection. As a public institution that holds its work in public trust, conservation of the museum’s collection is one of MIA’s top priorities. This is especially true for those objects made out of sensitive materials such as ivory, textile or paper. At the same time, MIA is southern Canada’s only museum devoted exclusively to art made by Inuit, meaning that the museums ability to effectively offer engaging educational programming is crucial. Through the Adopt an Object program, staff hope to acquire resources to help us manage these challenges. This will allow us to continue to educate the public about the art and its conservation.

Adoption Rates:

  • Small stone, antler and ivory pieces                                              $150
  • Medium stone, antler and ivory pieces                                         $300
  • Large stone, antler and ivory pieces                                              $500
  • Ceramic pieces                                                                                   $200
  • Wall hangings and soft sculpture works                                       $200
  • Prints and textile pieces                                                                   $200
  • Prints and Wall hangings made by Master Artists                     $700
  • Sculptures made by Master Artists                                                $1,000

All donors adopting an object will be issues a tax receipt. Rates are established based on the material and size of the artifact being adopted. After the priority works listed above have been adopted, additional opportunities will become available.

We thank all those that choose to support us in this endeavor by adopting an object. It is through the generous contributions of such individuals that we are able to further our mission: “to ethically acquire, conserve, research, communicate and exhibit for the purpose of study, education and enjoyment, material evidence of the history of Inuit art and culture in the Canadian Arctic”.

Posted by: Brittany Holliss, MIA’s Visitor Services Officer

Remembering Kenojuak Ashevak

8 Jan

Today, the art world lost one of its strongest and most well-known voices: at the age of 85, renowned and celebrated Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak passed away in Kinngait (Cape Dorset). Kenojuak Ashevak was unquestionably one of the most well-respected artists living and working in the North. Born in 1927 in Ikirasaq, a camp in southern Baffin Island, she was one of the first women to join the graphic program when it was introduced to Kinngait in the 1950s.

Kenojuak Ashevak

Kenojuak Ashevak, CC, RCA (October 3, 1927 – January 8, 2013), via Wikipedia

One of the driving forces throughout the history of the printmaking program in Kinngait, Kenojuak has produced some of the most iconic graphic art in the North. Her famous print, The Enchanted Owl, has become synonymous for many people with Inuit graphic art. Produced in an unusual two-colour run of red and green, the image was chosen by Canada Post to commemorate the centennial anniversay of the Northwest Territories in 1970 (which then included all of Nunavut).

Stamp featuring The Enchanted Owl

A colour proof trial of the green version has been a part of the museum’s permanent collection since we opened and has been included on our QR code self-guided tour (complete with audio guide track). We were very fortunate recently to pair it with a red version on loan to us a few months ago, as part of our tribute to her influence.

Both prints arrive at MIA

Both the red and green Enchanted Owl, reunited after over fifty years, prior to being installed.

Though The Enchanted Owl is undoubtedly her most well-known work, she was a prolific artist who was best known for her whimsical, colourful images of birds. Her sense of composition was particularly impressive, achieving balance, power and grace simultaneously in many of her images. She also continued working and experimenting: in the last print collection, seven of the thirty prints were of her images, including the atypical but striking Red Fox.

Her impressive artistic output seems matched only by the recognition she received throughout her career: originally inducted in the to Order of Canada in 1967 as an Officer, she became a Companion in 1982. In 1974, she was inducted in the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, and just last year she was inducted into the Order of Nunavut. Her work has been shown internationally in exhibitions in many museums and galleries.

Her impact on art production by Inuit has been enormous and has been felt on many levels. Her influence can be felt in many younger artist’s works and in many people’s appreciation for the art form. I know that was true for me. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Kenojuak over two years ago here in Toronto when she was part of the Art Gallery of Ontario‘s Inuit Modern Symposium. I had just started working at the museum and was absolutely blown away that I was able to meet her. She was incredibly gracious, and I am so grateful to have been able to meet her and be inspired by her work. I am just one of the countless people who Kenojuak inspired with her art and who will continue to be inspired by her work and her career.

On behalf of everyone here at MIA, I would like to extend our sincerest condolences to Kenojuak Ashevak’s family, friends and community members. She will certainly be missed.

– Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Associate Curator and Director of Education

Surprise Guests!

21 Oct

It’s not often we get surprises at the museum, but last week we had a very nice one: Stephen A Smith and Julia Szucs, the directors of Vanishing Point (Katinngat) came by to visit. You may remember that the film played as part of the Planet in Focus festival here in Toronto last week, but what you may not know is that our staff took a “field trip” together to see it, since we were one of the co-presenters.

Stephen A. Smith and Julia Szucs, directors of Vanishing Point (Katinngat).

Stephen A. Smith and Julia Szucs, directors of Vanishing Point (Katinngat) stopped by to see us this afternoon!

The film was beautifully shot and an interesting take on the connections between Inuit living in Canada and in Greenland. The official synopsis is:

Two Inuit communities in the circumpolar Arctic, linked by lineage to a legendary shaman, navigate through the greatest social and environmental challenges in their history.

Seemingly pristine and untouched, the Arctic is profoundly impacted by globalization. Vanishing Point brings to light the interconnectedness of isolated Arctic society with the rest of humanity through the eyes of an Inuit elder, Navarana K’avigak. And as the world melts beneath their feet, the last great hunting culture confronts an uncertain future.

Vanishing Point (Katinngat) is scheduled for a number of screenings (like in Banff October 27) and you can see their schedule on their website or Facebook. Want it to come where you live? Let them (and local film festival organizers) know!

Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Director of Education, Operations

Art, Responsibility and Stereotypes

14 Oct

It’s no secret that stereotypes of Aboriginal peoples exist, as distressing or damaging as they can be, and that these ideas can manifest themselves in many different forms. The best take I have seen on stereotypes related to Inuit is the short film Sloth, by Inuit filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril. It’s only two minutes long, but pokes fun at both historical and modern popular views of Inuit:

The point of this post isn’t to get into why stereotypes form, but to point out that they are damaging and pervasive. This has become extremely clear in recent press coverage of acclaimed Inuit artist, Annie Pootoogook.

Annie Pootoogook

Annie Pootoogook in 2009 via Nunatsiaq News

We, like many of you, have been reading stories about Annie for a number of years. Her art has been internationally exhibited; she was the winner of the prestigious Sobey Art Award in 2006; and had broken many other barriers for contemporary Inuit artists. But recently, she has been the subject of a different kind of press attention, one not focused on her art but on her personal life. I won’t link to the series of articles in question, but Annie has fallen on hard times and the response to her personal circumstances has been varied, but often is heavily steeped in stereotypical views of Aboriginal peoples and artists.

For example, numerous comparisons have been made between Annie and Ahnisnabae artist Norval Morrisseau (whose son Christian’s work we are exhibiting currently in our Aboriginal Voices Gallery). Presumably, this is because they were both “troubled”, but I find  it noteworthy that no other, non-Aboriginal artist’s name is invoked. Surely there have been “troubled” artists (and people, for that matter) of many different backgrounds.

Like many museums, we have exhibited Annie’s work before  though at present we do not have any on display. We still feel that Annie is an important voice in contemporary art and that her work needs to be considered on its artistic merits. We also take very seriously our role in displaying art sensitively and in promoting accurate information about the artists whose work we represent.

We have, however, been admittedly reticent to discuss the recent news coverage of her life because it was not directly related to her artwork and, frankly, struck our staff as problematically represented. However, some of our visitors have wanted to discuss this with us and with each other and so we felt that we should open up this space for conversation:

Do you think stereotypes of artists or Aboriginal peoples influence the way we see and speak about an artist’s work? Who do you think bears responsibility for breaking down these views? Do you think we could do more to directly confront these issues?

– Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Director of Education, Operations and Outreach

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We’re Putting Stephen Colbert On Notice: Why Naming Rights Matter

10 Oct

You might remember that in late July we thanked Justin Bieber for letting us clear up some confusion about Aboriginal peoples in Canada – and now it’s been brought to our attention that we need to do the same for Stephen Colbert.

Stephen Colbert

On last night’s episode of the Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert‘s opening segment revolved around the Arctic (beginning around the 4:23 mark – unfortunately, the video I’ve linked only works in Canada but if you’re in the US you can watch it here). In discussing the recent story about Australian businessman Paul McDonald being fined for breaking the law in Nunavut, Colbert says (around the 5:10 mark):

Did you know the Eskimos now have twenty-five different words for “douchebag”?

There’s something about this that needs clearing up and it’s tied up with popular perception of Inuit.

Colbert is using the word “Eskimo” to describe Aboriginal residents of Nunavut. As an American, I know that many of my countrymen still use that word but here in Canada (and specifically in Nunavut) people use the word Inuit. Two weeks ago, I explained some of the issues around using the word Inuit but to recap: Inuit simply means “the people” in Inuktitut, one dialect of Inuit language. This is the word Inuit used to describe themselves, not “Eskimo.”

Linguists argue where the word “Eskimo” came from, but the most popular back story is that it was derived from a word certain First Nations peoples used to refer to Inuit, which meant “raw flesh eater” and so had negative connotations. Whether this is true or it actually meant something else, the point is it’s not the word Inuit use to describe themselves and is considered derogatory (at best) by many.

The distinction is even made later in the episode when Colbert cites Greenland’s Vice-Premier Jens B. Frederiksen as saying (in relation to China around the 6:30 mark):

We are aware that is because we now have something to offer, not because they’ve suddenly realized that Inuit are nice people.

Even though Colbert did a nice job saying umiaq, that’s missing the point a bit – it’s important (even when making jokes) to respect naming rights. And for the record, as far as I’m aware there’s only one word modern Inuit use for “douchebag” – and it’s the same as in English (which is a language many Inuit today speak).

So Stephen Colbert, we have no choice but to make our own “On Notice” Board and put you on it with the Biebs.

– Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Director of Education, Operations and Outreach