Baker Lake is 200 miles inland of the coast, and as a result its people had very little contact with outside influences. The Inuit in the Keewatin district lived traditionally on the land until the 1950's when starvation and disease forced the survivors into settlements where services were available. it was not until the arrival of artists Jack and Sheila Butler in 1969, that the printmaking programme took off offering to teach printmaking to those Inuit who wanted to learn. By 1970 the first collection was released.
Stonecut/stencil is the most common technique, prints are often technically complex. Silkscreen is also used. Baker Lake imagery is generally bold and colourful with an emphasis on shamanistic and supernatural subject matter.
Cape Dorset was the first community to attempt printmaking, under the enthusiastic leadership of James Houston, an artist and employee of the Dept. of Northern Affairs. The earliest experiments used sealskin stencils (later replaced by stencil paper), stonecuts. The sources for the earliest images were incised tusks and inlaid sealskin designs. Houston encouraged people to draw, and purchased drawings as resources for the printmakers. Their first collection was released in 1959 to enthusiastic southern audiences. Copperplate engraving was introduced in 1961, and lithography in 1962 by Terry Ryan, who followed Houston as the artists principal advisor. Cape Dorset prints are still released in annual catalogued collections, and remain among the most sought after by collectors, particularly Kenojuak.
It was at Cape Dorset that the remains of an ancient Inuit people, who flourished between 1000 B.C. and 1100 A.D., were found. They were called by anthropologists the "Dorset Culture" after Cape Dorset. The Baffin Inuit of Cape Dorset are descendents of the later "Thule Culture" known by their legends as the "Tunlit".
The Cape itself was named by Captain Luke Foxe on September 24, 1631, after Edward Sackville, Earl of Dorset. Sackville, a Lord of the Admiralty, was one of Foxe's sponsors in his unsuccessful attempt to find the Northwest Passage. The "Cape" on Dorset Island is actually a 243 meter [798 feet] high mountain, part of the Kinngait Range. Kinngait means "High Mountain" in Inuktitut, hence the formal Inuit name of the community, currently with some 1300 inhabitants.
The Hudson's Bay Company established a trading post in 1913. A Roman Catholic mission was established in 1938 but closed in 1960 as the majority of the residents are of the Anglican faith. In 1947, the well known Arctic supply ship, the RMS Nascopie, struck an uncharted reef at the harbour's entrance and sank. The ship and its cargo were lost, but the crew and passengers were saved: a cairn was built in memory of the disaster.
In 1953, the Inuit of Cape Dorset built the Anglican Church on their own initiative. In the same year, the artist James Houston arrived in the community having already spent some time in Arctic Quebec investigating, on behalf of the Canadian Handicrafts Guild, the potential for Inuit Art. He and his wife Alma, together with their 2 sons spent 10 years in Cape Dorset, finding gifted artists, encouraging carving and handicraft production and after a research period in Japan introduced print-making to broaden the Inuit’s artistic horizon.
As a result the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative was formally founded in 1959. In that year the first major exhibition of Cape Dorset Inuit sculpture was held at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. It was a success and carving and graphic art have now become the economic mainstay of the community.
In 1960 Terry Ryan took over from James Houston and was for more than 40 years, until his recent retirement, the manager of the co-op guiding both the graphic artists and sculptors to the success that today ensures they are world renown. We were delighted when Terry accepted our invitation to become the honorary patron of our foundation NIAEF.
The co-op in Clyde River commenced printmaking in 1981. Due to a fire the 1982 collection was amalgamated and released with the 1983 collection. 2 years later a similar collection was released but due to financial difficulties it proved to be the last in the brief history of the coop.
Inukjuak is located on the north bank of the Innuksuak River, known for its turquoise water and turbulent rapids. The many archaeological sites scattered along the meandering river evidence thousands of years of inhabitation. The land around Inukjuak is marked by gently rolling hills and open spaces which endow the landscape with a "silent beauty," in the words of local Inuit. From the tundra, one may admire a splendid view of the village, its small port, the Hopewell Islands and Hudson Bay. In spring, ice between these islands and the mainland is moved by the action of tides and currents to create a spectacular field of immense, upraised blocks of ice.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the area was given the name Port Harrison and the French fur trading company Revillon Frares established a post here. For its part, the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) opened its post in 1920. Competition between these companies ended in 1936 when the HBC bought out Revillon Frares. The subsequent HBC fur trade monopoly continued until 1958. The St. Thomas Anglican mission was founded in 1927 and, in the years following, the federal government began delivering basic community services in Inukjuak: a post office and a Royal Canadian Mounted Police attachment were opened in 1935, a nursing station in 1947 and a school in 1951. In 1962, the co-operative store opened and, in 1980, Inukjuak was legally established as a municipality. Throughout this period, most Inuit however continued to prefer their traditional lifestyle on the land and only began settling in the village in the 1950s.
A much more painful period in the history of Inukjuamiut incongruously involves Resolute Bay and Grise Fjord, communities created 2000 km away in the High Arctic. It was in 1953 that Inuit from Inukjuak were involuntarily relocated north by the Government of Canada, essentially, in order to act as flagpoles. They represented this country's efforts to occupy the uninhabited High Arctic and counter the feared expansionist activities of other nations. Families were split up and relocatees were placed in the cruel position where to survive they had to quickly acquire new hunting techniques in the face of much harsher climatic conditions. In 1996, the Canadian government provided monetary compensation to the surviving relocatees and their families, but this settlement fell short of apologizing to the Inuit for the hardships they had endured. Instead, it offered a 'statement of reconciliation.' History should remember these people for their important role in establishing Canada’s presence in the High Arctic.
Beginning in 1960, Father Henry Tardy encouraged the making of drawings with a view towards starting a print programme. An artist was sent to Holman to offer instruction, and he encouraged the use of local limestone to make stone cuts. The first exhibition of Holman prints was held in 1965. Stonecutting and printing techniques were initially kept very simple. The first prints were made by tracing the original drawing onto the stone block with a cutting tool, destroying the drawing in the process. Current collections are dominated by stencil techniques which produce a soft, painterly effect.
Kuujjuarapik (pop. 1210) is nestled in golden sand dunes at the mouth of the Great Whale River. Beyond the village, the land is rather flat; a carpet of moss and rock unfold as far as the eye can see. From the crest of the dunes, there is a good view of Hudson Bay and the Manitounuk Islands which are just a little to the north along the coast. These breath-taking islands are representative of the Hudsonian cuestas that rise along the eastern shore of Hudson Bay. They are characterized by rocky beaches on the side facing the open sea and vertiginous cliffs on the coastal side. The Manitounuk Islands constitute an ideal shelter for birds, seal, whale and beluga. About 12 km up the Great Whale River, there is an enchanting waterfall, the Amitapanuch Falls. Just remember thais when you look out of the plane window!!
Kuujjuarapik is Nunavik's (Arctic Quebec's) southernmost village. It is also unique as it is a bicultural community of Inuit and Cree. The Cree community is called Whapmagootsui (where there are whales, in the Cree language). This village is also officially designated Poste-de-la-Baleine, making it one of the few places in Canada with three official names.
Ancestors of the Inuit, as well as Cree, have occupied the area for roughly 2800 years. In the 18th century, hunters travelled throughout the region setting up camps on Richmond Gulf, Little Whale River and Great Whale River. The Hudson's Bay Company opened a trading post called Great Whale River in 1820 on the site of today's Kuujjuarapik. The main activities at the post were processing whale products of the commercial whale hunt and trading furs. An Anglican mission was established in 1882 and a Catholic mission in 1890. Although the federal government set up a weather station in Great Whale River in 1895, it only started providing some medical assistance and policing services through the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the first half of the 20th century.
The village itself started to develop in the late 1930s. During World War II, the United States built in Kuujjuarapik a military base and airport, which they turned over to the Canadian government in 1948. This base was also the control station of the Mid-Canada Line, a line of military radar stations constructed in 1955 from the Atlantic Ocean to the Hudson Bay along the 55th parallel. The population of Kuujjuarapik decreased significantly however in 1985 when many families, fearing the negative impacts of the Great Whale River hydro-electric project, decided to relocate to Umiujaq, another Inuit community about 160 km north of Kuujjuarapik.
Printmaking was introduced in Pangnirtung as a project sponsored by the Government of the Northwest Territories, and its first collection was released in 1973. Prints from Pangnirtung depict daily activities of traditional life on the land, with an emphasis on whaling. In 1988 the print shop closed due to lack of government funding. In 1992 a new collection was issued by the independent Uqqurmuit Inuit Artists Association, funded by money raised in the community. Pangnirtung continues to release annual print collections.
In 1961 the Povungnituk Co-operative Society, under the guidance of Father Andre Steinman, hired instructors to introduce printmaking techniques to interested artists. The first collection was published in 1962 in the same catalogue as the 1962 Cape Dorset collection.
The imagery of these prints emphasize realistic scenes of the traditional way of life. Stonecut is the medium of choice, and original drawings are often dispensed with as the artist carves directly on the stone. The stone block is then sold to the Co-op, much like an original drawing would be, and its use dependent on the needs of the print shop. The stone is often very evident in the final print, with the surrounding uncut stone forming a border or background around the bold images. Artists from other Arctic Quebec communities have also participated in printmaking activities, and joint catalogues published.
The above information on the printmaking communities past and present is a synopsis of the content of The Inuit Print together with further data supplied by the Narwhal Inuit Art Gallery, London UK, NIAEF, and the Nunavik Tourist Association, Canada.
For more information on Inuit Prints, we recommend The Inuit Print, published by the National Museum of Civilization, Ottawa.