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The Festive North

October 29, 2005 to June 18, 2006

The Festive North focuses on celebration, showcasing images of traditional and contemporary Inuit games, drum dancing, throat singing, community gatherings and feasts, quite simply all things celebratory in Inuit Art.

Traditionally, the great gatherings and celebrations centred on sharing and one of the most important things shared were the games. Games played an important role in the traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle; ensuring survival they helped to improve strength, dexterity, endurance and pain resistance. Out of necessity they required very little equipment, and provided skills and training for adults and children alike. Popular games included, amongst others, the mouth pull, musk-ox fight, bow and arrow shoot, Nuglutang (a hoop-and-pole game), the blanket toss, juggling, and football. This tradition continues today as Inuit from different communities celebrate their culture through the Arctic Winter Games.

The first Arctic Winter Games were held in Yellowknife in 1970 and demonstrated drum dances along with the traditional games that form the core of the competition, which now includes sports like hockey, curling, figure skating and snow boarding. A truly circumpolar initiative, the Arctic Winter Games include cultural events featuring dancers, singers and artists as well as delegates and competitors from Canada, Alaska, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Greenland.

Continuing these themes, The Festive North also offers a unique opportunity to view exciting new drawings from the community of Aqviat (Arviat) where senior sculptors have created a new artistic vision in a two-dimensional art form: drawing. Several attempts were made over the years to introduce drawing to Aqviat, known primarily for its stone and caribou antler sculpture, but this was without any lasting effect until 2004 when Ingo Hessel, Inuit art specialist and author, visited the community. Since then several artists have been discovering and extending their creative voices through this new media, entering a new realm of expression with seemingly endless possibilities.

This installation of twenty selected drawings is one of a two-part discussion of new media that will explore each artist’s interpretation, personal iconography, and will be a family affair: a husband and wife, a mother and daughter. Featured are new drawings by husband and wife Luke Anowtalik and Mary Ayaq Anowtalik, as well as work by two other senior artists from Aqviat: Marc Alikaswa and Jacob Irkok. The Festive North includes an early collage by Jessie Oonark plus several recent collages by her daughter Janet Kigusiuq of Qamanittuaq (Baker Lake). While the Aqviat drawings focus mainly on traditional games and the drum dance, several of the works in these two sections enter into a discussion of aesthetics, artistic style and vision. Here beauty is synonymous with celebration and is found both in the landscape, a familiar protagonist, and in the elements of everyday life? Inuit Teletubbies, Still Life with apples, ulu (woman’s crescent-shaped knife) as both symbol and function.

In addition to presenting the first public gallery showing of the “Aqviat Originals” and the Janet Kigusiuq collage, The Festive North showcases a thematic cross-section of Kinngait (Cape Dorset) and Qamanittuaq prints, drawings and sculpture from the McMichael Canadian Art Collection’s extensive holdings of contemporary Inuit art.

Karen Williamson
Guest Curator

Luke Anowtalik, 1932-
Test of Strength, 2004
pencil crayon
22.8 x 30.5 cm
Image courtesy of Feheley Fine Arts

Jessie Oonark, 1906-1985
Baker Lake
Untitled, (Drum Dance), c.1967-68
paper collage
50.5 x 50.7 cm
Gift of Judge and Mrs. Darrell Draper
Reproduced with the permission of the Arctic Co-operatives Limited

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