Weather: -16c; grey and snowy
Cape Dorset (Kinngait), Nunavut – Ever since I knew I was coming to do a story in Cape Dorset, I was hoping to meet a young carver named Mathewsie Tunnillie.
I got one of his carvings for Christmas this year. It was beautiful and I loved it.
Mathewsie was exactly the kind of young, emerging artist that I wanted to talk to for my story.
I wasn’t familiar with Mr. Tunnillie’s work before so I started researching him. I learned he was one of the rare, young Cape Dorset carvers that was really making a name for himself.
The Elca London Gallery in Montreal specializes in Inuit art and they called him one of Dorset’s most promising young carvers.
They also said he had committed suicide.
However, as I was speaking to people in Dorset as I planned my trip and story, nobody would confirm it. There was just a lot of awkward silence at the other end of the line.
So now that we’re in town, I ask Bill, the studio manager how I might find him. Bill doesn’t know, but takes me to see Toonoo Sharky, a well-known carver who happens to be filling in for the studio’s soapstone manager that week.
“Eilís here is interested in meeting Mathewsie Tunnillie,” Bill said. “But is he…uh…gone…”
Toonoo looks at the ground and nods his head. “Yes he is.” Toonoo goes on to tell me what a quiet and very nice guy Mathewsie was.
“Has it been long?,” I ask.
Toonoo tells me it was in 2009 and goes on to tell me the exact day and month. I was so stunned I just realized I didn’t even write it down.
“You remember the exact date?” I ask.
Toonoo nods his head. “Yes. Because my younger brother killed himself on the same day too.”