Inuit Art Sculptures

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Discover the Landscape That Inspired Great Inuit Artists

The Inuit have been mythologized for possessing innumerable words for snow. But if that is the only fact you know about their lives, culture and their vast array of talents you will misunderstand and underestimate this incredible race of people. The death of the great artist Kenojuak Ashevak has brought the lives and the work of the Inuit back into the public consciousness.

She was an artist who touched the lives of millions with her talent and gained worldwide recognition for the brilliance of her work and at the age of 85, Ashevak was widely believed to be the last living link to the tradition of printmaking in Inuit culture. She lived in peace and tranquillity on Cape Dorset, a community set in picturesque hills in the south west of Baffin Island and that has been inhabited for more than 1,000 years. It is a community with an incredible reputation for Inuit Art, stone carvings and especially Ashevak’s specialty of printmaking. You can view their work at the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative, where a number of eye-catching pieces of work are displayed.

Can I Travel to That Part of the World?

The frozen vistas of the fabled Northwest Passage have long since been a draw for travellers and adventurers from all over the world. Clear turquoise seas and harsh landscapes catch the eye and lift the soul, even in temperatures that test even the hardiest of tourists.

A trip to Baffin Island is a vacation like no other. Those of you who would rather relax with a cold cocktail, a warm bath and the rest of life’s little luxuries, need not read. This is a holiday of exploration and realisation. A trip that will change your life, but not the colour of back and shoulders. Companies such as Adventure Canada take you to the heart of communities just like the one Ashevak made famous. Travellers are taken around the waters of the region on a boat but the days include long hikes, invigorating lectures or lessons in Inuktitut.

What Else Will I Need to Think About?

Once you have made the commitment, both financially and emotionally, to go on this trip you need to start thinking with your head, as well as dreaming with your heart. You should make sure you take adequate precautions because of the unique nature of the adventure and the special conditions of this part of the world. This will protect you if your trip is cancelled or interrupted and spare you further disappointment if for any reason your operator goes out of business. If you are hiking, going on boat trips and roughing out in the plummeting temperatures you will need to be protected against every eventuality. Holidays such as this one have the potential to be incredibly special and memorable for all the right reasons and with that in mind it is even more important to make sure you are as well protected as possible should anything go against you.

What Can I Expect to See?

As well as a unique insight into the Inuit culture and their incredible artistic talents, a trip to the land these people call home will give you a chance to see how much the Arctic climate has changed over the past 20 years or so. The waters in the area are warming at an alarming rate, Baffin Island is getting warmer and warmer and yet that will not stop you seeing Polar bears, arctic hares and foxes on the ground, as well as the occasional whale and walrus slinking through the island's icy waters. The region is littered with stunning lakes, which increase in number year on year.

What Is the History of the Area?

Baffin Island was an ancient trading post dating back to first millennium. Situated between Greenland and the north coast of Canada, it is remote and considered one of the world’s most inhospitable areas in the world. Historians rarely agree on these things, but many believe this Inuit haven may have originally had a role as a staging post in the very first trading routes between Europe and North America. Others claim the Vikings interacted with the natives dating back to 500BC. There is even evidence that skills in art and craft were traded between the Vikings and the Inuit, helping the latter to forge their skills which last to this very day.

It All Sounds a Bit Daunting – Should I Go?

This is, quite simply, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, littered with moments you will never forget. It will be cold and at times you will feel tired, but the opportunity to explore one of the world’s most remote cultures and learn about the incredible artistic skills of the Inuit is impossible to miss. Most travel companies that operate in the area work closely with local Inuit communities and are welcomed by the people there when they stop. Elders of the community will even answer your (translated) questions about daily life on the Island and travellers will be presented with opportunities to make prints, to paint and to create your very own piece of Inuit history. This may not be an area that is here forever, as climate change continues to cause terrible damage but the incredible and desolate beauty, coupled with the warmth of the Inuit make it one of the most humbling experiences open to any traveller in the world. Just go.

 

by: Evelyn Robinson






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