Tag Archives: nunavut

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

Meet Master Artist Jaco Ishulutaq!

9 Aug

Ever wanted to see exactly how sculptures are made? Want to know what working within the co-operative system is like? Are you a fan of Jaco Ishulutaq’s work? Well, now’s your chance! Jaco is coming to the museum and will be here from August 15 – 19 as part of our programming for Planet IndigenUS.

Jaco Ishulutaq working in the Arctic

Jaco Ishulutaq working in the Arctic. Courtesy of RJ Ramrattan/Canadian Arctic Producers

You may remember Jaco from earlier this year when I was able to chat with him via Skype as part of our Conversation Series. He is a technically skilled master sculptor from Panniqtuuq (Pangnirtung) whose work tells important stories about his community and his life. There are lots of opportunities to meet him, speak with him and see how he works next week, so mark your calendars!

Wednesday August 15:
2 PM – 3 PM: Complimentary Public Talk, “Art Making in Canada’s North”

Jaco  and I will discuss the challenges and rewards of making art in the Arctic. Visitors will have a chance to ask him their own questions and talk with him about his career. Register in advance at Eventbrite or on Facebook!

Thursday August 16

2 PM – 3 PM: Complimentary Opening of “Working Together: The Cooperative Influence” Special Exhibition

I will give an introduction to and brief tour of the museum’s latest special exhibition, “Working Together: The Cooperative Influence” which examines the important role Inuit owned and operated cooperatives have played in the development of art made by Inuit.  Jaco will discuss his experiences working within the cooperative system in Panniqtuuq before opening the floor to questions. Visitors will then have the opportunity to meet the artist. Register in advance on Eventbrite or on Facebook!

Friday August 17

2 PM – 3 PM: Complimentary Public Talk, “Making Art Within the Cooperative System”

Jaco and I will give an overview of the museum’s latest special exhibition “Working Together: The Cooperative Influence” before discussing art made specifically in Panniqtuuq. Panniqtuuq is home to an internationally acclaimed weaving studio, print studio and many sculptors. Visitors will then have the opportunity to ask Ishulutaq their questions and meet the artist. Register in advance on Eventbrite or on Facebook!

7 PM – 9 PM MIA Gallery Collectors’ Night

The MIA Gallery will host its weekly collectors’ night, introducing participants to art made by Inuit and the Inuit art market. MIA’s Director of Education Alysa Procida will begin with a brief tour of the museum, followed by a brief talk by MIA’s Gallery Director Christine Platt about the important features of the Inuit art market. Then, artist Jaco Ishulutaq will discuss his experiences making art and his works on display in the gallery. Participants will then have the ability to browse the gallery and speak with Ishulutaq directly. Tickets are $10 and can be reserved in advance at http://miagallerycollectorsnight.eventbrite.com/.

Saturday August 18

12:30 PM -5 PM: Sculpture Making Demonstration – Complimentary

Master carver Jaco Ishulutaq will demonstrate his art making techniques by completing a sculpture just outside the Museum of Inuit Art at Queen’s Quay Terminal. From 12:30 PM to 5 PM, visitors are welcome to visit Ishulutaq while working and discuss his art and techniques with him. The carving demonstration will take place outside MIA’s south entrance on the southwest corner of Queen’s Quay Terminal facing Lake Ontario. Register in advance on Eventbrite or on Facebook!

We hope to see you there!

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

Support for these events has been generously provided by Canadian Arctic Producers and the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association.

Focus On: Barnabus Arnasungaaq’s Musk Ox

6 May

Barnabus Arnasungaaq’s (1924-) is an Inuit artist from Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake). Barnabus’s works have been a major influence and contribution to Inuit art from Qamani’tuaq since the 1960s.  He has a diverse repertoire of exceptional sculptures; however his muskox sculptures at the Museum of Inuit Art are some of my personal favourites, and are also very popular with visitors. His ability to capture the essence of his subject in a beautifully fluid style appeals to the viewer’s senses, and often makes them want to touch the art work.

Figure 1: Barnabus Arnasungaaq’s (1924-) “Musk Ox” (c. 1970s)

Figure 2: Barnabus Arnasungaaq’s (1924-) “Musk Ox” (1977)

The type of stone available to carve in Qamani’tuaq is a hard stone, which is very difficult to shape and to carve detailing into. The limitations of working with such a stone has certainly contributed to the style of the region, and to Barnabus’s personal expression.  His figures are heavy-set, rounded, and slightly abstract in design.

He captures the characteristics and mannerisms of the musxox by amplifying its features, such as the heavy rounded coat of the muskox in Figure 1 and the arched shoulders of the muskox in Figure 2. Muskoxen are a popular subject with carvers in the region, along with figures of hunters and animal-human transformations.

Musk Ox

Muskoxen in the wild (c) Alastair Knock, used under Creative Commons license.

Come to the museum to take a look at some other works by Barnabus Arnasungaaq!

– Posted By Emma Ward, MIA’s Visitor Services Officer

Conversation Series Part Three! Meet Jaco Ishulutaq

7 Mar

After some technical difficulties, we are back with our third installment of our Conversation Series via Skype. This time, meet Jaco Isulutaq from Panniqtuuq (Pangnirtung). Jaco is a well-respected carver who has been working for decades.

Jaco’s work is best known for his sculptures of the Inuit Sea Goddess, commonly called Sedna. Sedna is the Inuit sea goddess and a very important figure in traditional Inuit spirituality, particularly in coastal communities. There are many different names for the sea goddess as well as versions of her legend, which vary from community to community
According to one version, Sedna was a beautiful Inuit girl who was pressured into marriage to a sea bird by her father. Her new husband fed her fish and kept her in a nest on an island far from her family. Her father missed her and felt badly for forcing her into marriage, so he attempted to rescue her in his kayak. The bird was enraged, so he conjured up a deadly storm. In a panic, the father pushed Sedna over the side of the kayak but she clung to the side. Her father cut her fingers off, one by one, and they fell into the sea and transformed into sea mammals. Sedna herself sank into the water, where she transformed into the sea goddess. In other versions of the story, her husband is a dog or a hunter who gives her a sleeping potion and carries her off. Her father does not always cut her fingers off, either; sometimes, they freeze and fall off instead.

She was an incredibly important figure because she controlled Inuit access to marine mammals, which were a staple in many regional diets. She was easily upset and many traditional taboos (such as not eating caribou when hunting seal) were enforced in order not to anger her. Images of the Sea Goddess with unkempt hair often signify that she is upset, at which point she would hold back the marine mammals from Inuit hunters. The angukaak would then have to discover the transgression and overcome several trials in order to reach her undersea home. There, the angukaak would either have to soothe her by combing and braiding her hair or, in other versions, force her to release the sea mammals.

Skype Chat Series 2: Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory of Qaggiavvut!

2 Feb

As promised, today I had the pleasure of speaking with Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, the Executive Director of Qaggiavvut! Society for a Nunavut Performing Arts Centre. There was so much to talk about that we had to split the conversation into two videos!

Watch Part 1 here:

And Part 2 here:

For more information on Qaggiavvut! or help build a state-of-the-art performing arts centre in Iqaluit, be sure to go to the website.

I’m working on lining up our next interview (hopefully for next week) – who would you like to see us talk to next?

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

Next Conversation Series Announced!

30 Jan

As promised, the installment of of Skype Conversations series is Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, the Executive Director of Qaggiavuut! Society for a Nunavut Performing Arts Centre! If you’re not familiar, Qaggiavuut! promotes performing artists in Nunavut – from filmmakers to drum dancers and beyond – while raising funds to build Nunavut’s first performing arts centre. Laakkuluk is also a performer: you can read more about her work here.

There’s lots to talk about and we want your input! Do you want to know what kinds of performing artists are a part of Qaggiavuut? Anything about the history of performing arts in the Arctic? Want to know why they’re interested in a Performing Arts Centre? Laakkuluk and I will be speaking this Thursday at 2 PM (EST) so leave your questions in the comments and I will be sure to ask. Then check back for the video, which should be posted late that afternoon!

Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator

On The Tundra

18 Sep

Today was a big day for us here in Kangirqliniq (Rankin Inlet). We spent most of the day at the Matchbox Gallery, which specializes in the production of ceramics. We spoke to co-founder Jim Shirley about their approach to ceramics and what he calls the “literacy of touch” – the idea that there is a kind of language incorporated into building something with clay, that there is a kind of magic to the clay where every imprint and touch is visible. John Kurok also stopped by to work on a piece, which was exciting to see. We are going back tomorrow, so I will save most of the discussion of our visit for then.

Director David Harris at the Matchbox Gallery

Me at the Matchbox Gallery

Afterward, I had the opportunity to take a walk outside the community and onto the tundra. Now, I did not go out on the land – this was very close to Kangirqliniq – but the difference between this area and the community-proper was pretty stark. It was quiet, peaceful and full of plant and animal life – there really wasn’t anyone else around. I must have seen four or five siksiq (Arctic ground squirrels) while we were walking around and many more burrows.

Look carefully - you can see the squirrel in the grass.

Many people think the Arctic is always snow and ice, but that’s a misconception. There is a wide array of plant life there – grass, lichen, moss, flowers, berries… Walking along, it’s actually very squishy, which I didn’t expect.

I also saw an old tent ring – these were used hundreds of years ago to hold down tent flaps before the influence of qalunaat and the introduction of year-round housing. The entrance can be seen on the right side of the photo.

The old remains of a tent ring

I hope this gave you a glimpse into what the tundra is like and what kind of diversity you can find there. I’ve uploaded some extra photos of our trip to Facebook and Flickr, so check them out.

Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator

Differences In The Arctic: Cost of Living

18 Sep

We have been here less than 24 hours and already the differences between life in southern Canada and in the Arctic are revealing themselves. The major one that I’ve noticed by now is that it is shocking how much basic things cost here compared to their costs in Toronto.

I’ve seen the statistics before: the ITK released a very helpful list in 2008 of what basics costs in various southern and northern communities (see page 10) and the disparities are astounding (Side note: the rest of the statistics in the report are more than worth reading – it may be eye opening for you). The average cost of living in the Arctic is estimated to be between two and three times greater than it is in southern Canada.

However, I must admit now that I’m here the statistics did not adequately convey just how expensive it is here. Beyond the cost of travel to the Arctic (and back) and lodging (which is always at a premium), basic costs that you may not give much thought to in the city are very differently priced here.

Consider this: Rankin Inlet is a very small place compared to Toronto, but we don’t know our way around yet. We have taken a taxi twice and each ride was approximately 5 minutes long. Each cost $15. Why? Fuel is expensive and must be imported – and yes, fuel is imported to Toronto as well, but with very different infrastructure and frequency.

Then, there’s the food. Take a look at our menu from last night:

Check out the prices. This is not just for tourists, either – this is how much it costs for local people to eat there. The Saturday special was a chili cheese burger, poutine and a slice of pie for $22.95.

We haven’t been to the grocery store yet, but when we do I will report back. I suspect the prices will be equivalent – our very nice flight attendants on the way up gave us a back of extra fruit because they can be so expensive. I’ll continue to report back as the week goes on.

Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator

Introducing Our MIA Kids Correspondent

17 Sep

As MIA’s Educational Coordinator, I am fortunate enough to meet a wide variety of people who come to the museum and want to discuss the art with me. I learned very quickly that everyone has a unique perspective on the museum and the art we display (as well as everything else). Part of our goal at MIA is to be as inclusive as possible, and we realize that the views and perspective of our staff are not the only ones that exist. In that spirit, we’ve appointed an Official MIA Kids Correspondent to give their own unique take on the museum, Inuit art, events, and other aspects of the museum’s activities.

Our MIA Kids Correspondent’s first assignment? To help us better document and describe our trip to Rankin Inlet. So without further ado, meet Lauren Harris:

MIA Kids Correspondent Lauren Harris

How old are you?

I’m nine.

How long have you been interested in the museum and Inuit art, or just art?

I’ve always liked art. For Inuit art, I would say since I was five I really started to like it.

What is it that you like the most?

I’ve always liked how it was kind of magical, how it wasn’t really realistic. I would say sculptures are my favourite because I can appreciate it more.

Were you excited to be chosen our official MIA Kids corrspondent?

Yeah, ever since I heard.

How have you liked the trip so far?

So far? Well, I really like it. Mostly because I got to see how Inuit live and I really like their community. It’s good to get away from the madness in the city.

Have you learned anything new since you’ve been on this trip?

Yeah, that they don’t have all paved roads, which I thought was cool and maybe dangerous.

What’s made the biggest impression on you so far?

I would say when we were landing. It was so amazing seeing the land and taking it all in.

What do you hope to do while you’re here?

I hope to ride one of those four wheelers [ATVs] – I’ve always wanted to do that.

Lauren will be commenting on our journey periodically, so keep your eyes on the blog to hear more of her impressions of the Arctic.

Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator

We’re Here!

17 Sep

Hello from Nunavut!

MIA Director David Harris and I just arrived in Kangirqliniq (Rankin Inlet). While we’re getting settled, I’m excited to update you about the trip so far. If you keep up with our Twitter and Facebook feeds, you’ll know that yesterday we landed in Winnipeg, since you can’t get a direct flight to anywhere in the Arctic from Toronto. Rankin serves as the regional “hub” for the Kivalliq region, as I discussed last week, so many people fly here (from Winnipeg) and continue on to other destinations in the region.

While at the Winnipeg airport, we saw out first sign in syllabics, which I posted yesterday. Though it was nice to see syllabics, the sign is for the Kivalliq Inuit Centre Medical Transportation Pick-Up Area, as you can see. Though there is health care in the Arctic, there is no major hospital in the Kivalliq so when people have specialized or serious health needs, they often must fly south.

We spent the day in Winnipeg and then this morning flew to Rankin. This is my first experience flying up north, so I was (naively) surprised to learnt that we may  not have ended up in Rankin at all today. Due to low visibility weather conditions, we may have had to divert to Churchill, Manitoba, or simply turn back around to Winnipeg and try again later. We boarded the plane with high hopes anyway.

Thankfully, the weather cleared up by the time we made it here so we were able to land. It was quite overcast, so we couldn’t see much on our descent until we were quite low. But as we did, the tundra opened up underneath us and it was amazing – just beautiful, and such a different kind of environment than we have in Toronto.

View of Rankin Inlet from the plane

So now that we’re here, it’s time to get down to work. Keep checking back, I’ll be blogging about our trip the whole week.

Posted by: Alysa Procida, MIA’s Educational Coordinator