INUIT ARTISTS IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Ooloosie Saila, Untitled, 2017, coloured pencil and ink, 77 x 126.8 cm (Reproduced with the permission of Dorset Fine Arts / West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative)
West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative
The West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative, the Arctic Canadian business behind the renowned Cape Dorset print program, is marking its 60th anniversary in 2019.
Follow Eye on the Arctic journalist Eilís Quinn as she explores the world of some of the most renowned Inuit artists part of the co-operative.
Discover the complexity and realities surrounding Inuit art through the personal testimony of the creators themselves.
“We’re in an Inuit art renaissance”
The beginnings of an art phenomenon
A 1961 photo of artists in front of the Cape Dorset print shop run by the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative in Arctic Canada. From left to right standing: Print studio manager Terry Ryan and artists Pudlo Pudlat, Pitseolak Ashoona, Napachie Pootoogook, Kiakshuk, Parr, Joanasie Salomomie. Seated from left to right: artists Eegyvadluk Ragee, Kenojuak Ashevak, Lucy Qinnuayuak. (Courtesy West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative)
The co-op was established in 1959 in Cape Dorset, an island community off the southwest coast of Baffin Island in Canada’s eastern Arctic.
The first annual Cape Dorset print collection was released the same year, made up of images produced by Inuit in the region, who’d been taught printmaking by Canadian artist James Houston after he’d moved to the area.
The Cape Dorset prints of Arctic nature and traditional Inuit life became a hit in the art world and a favourite of collectors. Artists like Kenojuak Ashevak (1927 -2013 ) whose work appeared in the first collection, went on to have an international career spanning decades.
Over the last decade, the print collection has also featured works by artists exploring contemporary themes like Shuvinai Ashoona’s depictions of day-to-day life in Cape Dorset or, images from Jutai Toonoo (1959-2015) whose prints and sculptures often featured abstract images of heads and figures along with words or phrases about social, personal and political issues.
Cape Dorset now has a population of approximately 1400, and the co-op, along with the municipality of Cape Dorset, opened the Kenojuak Cultural Centre and Print Shop in 2018, which houses community and exhibition spaces and printing studios.
The New Raw
Rethinking contemporary Inuit art
DOCUMENTARY - Art in the North is changing.
While traditional work and themes are still popular around the world, Inuit artists are increasingly interested in creating art that reflects today’s reality in the Arctic.
In this 2010 documentary report, Eye on the Arctic’s Eilís Quinn travelled to Cape Dorset, Nunavut to speak with the Arctic artists whose work is exploring the rapid social and environmental change in their communities.
Estimated number of Inuit involved in arts and crafts production in Canada
Population of Cape Dorset
Year artist Kenojuak Ashevak became Companion of the Order of Canada
Year artist Kananginak Pootoogook was featured in Italy's Biennale di Venezia
Kenojuak Ashevak, Rabbit Eating Seaweed, 1959, sealskin stencil, 20.3 x 55.8 cm (Reproduced with the permission of Dorset Fine Arts / West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative)
Renowned Inuit Artists
Kananginak Pootoogook, Musk Ox, 1970s, serpentinite and ivory, h40.5 x w40 x d20 cm (Reproduced with the permission of Dorset Fine Arts / West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative)
Inuit language series
In this series, Eye on the Arctic journalist Eilís Quinn goes in-depth with Inuit youth, rappers, elders, language experts and leaders from across the Arctic to find out where the Inuit language is headed.
Losing their Words