Academic journal article Newfoundland and Labrador Studies

SakKijajuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut

Academic journal article Newfoundland and Labrador Studies

SakKijajuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut

Article excerpt

Heather Igloliorte, ed. SakKijajuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions, and St. John's: The Rooms Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador, Provincial Art Gallery Division, 2017. ISBN 978-0-86492-974-7

SakKijdjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut was published as a catalogue to accompany the exhibition of the same name at The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery from October 2016 to January 2017 (currently on view at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and touring across the country). It includes the work of 47 Inuit artists from Labrador and spans roughly the period since Newfoundland and Labrador's Confederation with Canada in 1949 to the present. The exhibition and its catalogue are the work of Heather Igloliorte, a Labrador Inuk who is a curator and an Indigenous art historian at Concordia University. Exhibition and publication are divided into four sections: InutuKait/Elders; AkKusiuttet/Trailblazers; Ikualattisijet/Fire Keepers; and Kingullet Kinguvatsait/The Next Generation. Works include fine craft (jackets, boots, mitts, and basketry, for example) and drawings, paintings, original prints, textiles, photographs, and sculpture. Igloliorte wrote the introductory essay and invited four other writers to contribute essays for each section: Jenna Joyce Broomfield (Elders), Aimee Chaulk (Trailblazers), Christine Lalonde (Fire Keepers), and Barry Pottle (The Next Generation). Most of the works in the catalogue are beautifully photographed by St. John's artist, Ned Pratt.

SakKijdjuk translates from the Labrador dialect of Inuktitut as "to be invisible"; thus, Igloliorte's introductory essay examines how it came to be that Labrador Inuit art and artists were left out of the Inuit art "boom" that began in the 1950s and how this omission impacted the artwork and the economy of Nunatsiavummuit artists and craftspersons. Igloliorte explains that when Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada in 1949, the Terms of Union made no mention of the Indigenous peoples of the province--the Inuit, Innu, Metis, and Mi'kmaq. The net result was that Labrador Inuit (along with the other Indigenous peoples) did not have access to federal programs such as the Inuit Art Foundation, which included initiatives to support the development and marketing of Inuit art and craft. This presented challenges for the arts and craft sector in Labrador, and involved difficulty in accessing materials and in pursuing arts education. It also stifled the ability of Inuit artists in Labrador to network and to access art markets.

Igloliorte notes that Labrador Inuit differ from Inuit elsewhere in the country in some significant respects. There have been over 400 years of sustained contact with Europeans. Particularly important is contact with the Moravians and the impact of their form of Christianity on the culture. Additionally, Nunatsiavummiut represent the most southerly population of Inuit worldwide. Their land spans the taiga and tundra, which support forests of aspen and spruce. In terms of Labrador Inuit arts and craft, that means that the Inuit in the region could use wood as a material for their artwork.

In the first section, Elders, the earliest work--printed slide transparencies by James Anderson--dates to the 1950s but other work by Elders, for example, the beaded sealskin boots by Andrea Flowers, were created recently. Standout works in this section are Chesley Flowers's magnificent caribou herd, 46 wood and caribou antler carvings, and Doris Saunders's exquisite embroideries.

The next section, Trailblazers, discusses and demonstrates the work of the second generation of Labrador Inuit artists. Unlike Inuit elsewhere in Canada where government programs established print and carving workshops and provided on-location training and education, this group of artists had to leave Labrador if they wanted arts training. The works by the 11 artists--whether the artist left Labrador or not--are innovative and sophisticated, and many challenge the concept of what is "authentic" Inuit art. …

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