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Inuit Traditions


Kenojuak Ashevak, Joe Talirunili, Kiakshuk, and other Inuit artists have focused their art not only in interpreting their cultural experiences, but also the personal day-to-day challenges of living in the North. This selection of graphic and sculptural works reveal aspects of the material culture related to traditional forms of transportation on the water and the spiritual relationship that the Inuit maintain through the stories and legends that are told about the sea and its mythological inhabitants. The Migration by Joe Talirunili offers an interpretation of a type of traditional watercraft—the umiaq:a large boatthat was used to provide transportation for groups of people across the water. The sculpture has been created with materials in the North—stone, sealskin, and wood. Talirunili’s sculpture also represents a personal narrative about his own travels with his family across large areas of open water in the North when he was young.

In another work, Kayak and Seal in Hole by Suzanne Tupitnerk Mablik, the kayak has been rendered in ivory in a careful and delicate manner. This sculpture not only illustrates the form of the craft, it also defines its historical necessity in serving as a means for harvesting sea life to provide food for survival.

The mythology of the Inuit underlines the intricate and intimate ties that, traditionally, the people have had with the sea. Kiakshuk’s The Legend of Lumiuk, a stonecut print on paper, illustrates the story of a blind boy subjected to abuse who recovers his sight in the sea and seeks an end to his abuse with the aid of a sea creature. The legends offer moral tales and reflect the values of the Inuit people.

The Migration by Joe Talirunili
Joe Talirunili (1893?–1976)
The Migration, 1976
stone and sealskin with wood
Overall: 32.5 x 42 x 23 cm
Purchase 1980
McMichael Canadian Art Collection


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