Birds by Sabina Qunqnirq Anaittuq (1941-c. – 1997) from the community of Kugaaruk in Canada’s eastern Arctic. The ivory and bone carving is believed to have been done around 1969. (Winnipeg Art Gallery)

Canadian exhibition showcases miniature carvings by Inuit artists

Large carvings are amongst the most iconic works produced by Inuit artists, but a new Canadian exhibition is casting a spotlight on lesser-known, miniature carvings and how they too can be appreciated as an art form.

Small Worlds: Inuit Miniature Carving, opened on July 20 at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) in the western Canadian province of Manitoba.

The exhibition features 100 miniature carvings, mostly created between 1950 and 1970, from 19 communities across Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut.

Jocelyn Piirainen, the WAG’s assistant curator of Inuit Art, in the Small Worlds exhibit. (Courtesy Winnipeg Art Gallery)

“While looking through this collection, I noticed the large amount of both miniature and small carvings, and knew that these would be great to showcase in contrast to some of the larger carvings on display in the other galleries,” said Jocelyn Piirainen, assistant curator of Inuit art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, in a news release.

“Many of these miniatures also reflect the everyday busyness of Inuit including that of men hunting seals, fish or whales – or of women scraping sealskins or tending to the qulliq (oil lamp). These scenes then create small worlds where stone and bone become the landscape, and the stories and livelihood of Inuit are told by these miniature carvings.”

‘Size of the carvings magnifies their power’

The works came from the Government of Nunavut Fine Arts Collection and are on long-term loan to the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

“Piirainen’s first WAG exhibition highlights pieces from the Government of Nunavut’s collection in intriguing dioramas for all to enjoy,” said Stephen Borys, the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s director and CEO.  “Art is a voice and in Small Worlds, the size of the carvings magnifies their power.”

The exhibit runs until the end of 2020.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:Canadian Heritage to contribute funding to travelling Kenojuak Ashevak exhibition, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Sámi-themed Finnish short film makes Sundance lineup, Yle News

Greenland: `Enough of this postcolonial sh#%’ – An interview with Greenlandic author Niviaq Korneliussen, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Arctic Indigenous Film Fund launches in Norway, Radio Canada International

Sweden:  Walt Disney Animation Studios to release Saami-language version of “Frozen 2,” Eye on the Arctic

United States: Art exhibit in Alaska connects bird research to backyards, Alaska Public Media


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