LEARN ABOUT THE INUIT PEOPLE AND HOW INUIT ART INFLUENCES LIFE IN CANADA'S ARCTIC
INUIT ART AND TRADITIONAL LIFESTYLE:
A SELF-SUFFICIENT PEOPLE
The Inuit are an aboriginal people who are indigenous to the Arctic region of Canada. For more than 5,000 years the Inuit have lived along the Arctic coast line and on the islands of Canada’s far north. This treeless tundra area, the Canadian Arctic, is often perceived to be one of the most inhospitable regions of the world. Yet to the Inuit, it is Nunatsiaq, the beautiful land. And the lifestyle that they have developed attests to the Inuit’s resourcefulness.
The Inuit through their artistic works which include carvings/sculptures express their culture and the natural beauty of the Arctic. Inuit Art Carvings often depict the animals of the arctic or figures that represent Inuit folklore, mythology and religion which took the form of nature worship.
Inuit Art Sculpture is descended from the ancient craft of carving, honed from generations on the land when the Inuit carved tools, weapons and even toys for everyday life. Each Arctic community has its own unique artistic style based partly on colour and texture of the available materials, and the artistic influence of artists from that particular region.
The art and crafts produced by the Inuit contribute significantly to the economy and was first pursued as a serious economic activity in 1948 when Inuit art was collected and an Inuit art exhibition held in Montreal the following year. The art form was an immediate success and now commands an international audience. Inuit means “people” but also implies “the ones who are truly human”. The term “inuit” has been part of Canadian speech since the mid 1970’s. Inuit art is uniquely Canadian and enjoys an excellent worldwide reputation.
The Inuit were nomadic hunters and led a seasonal existence, for the seasons dictated which animals were hunted and in which region. Most Inuit spent the winter in snow houses on or near the sea ice along the coast. They hunted sea mammals such as seals, walruses and whales. During the summer they travelled to inland camps where they hunted caribou, fished, caught birds, collected eggs and gathered berries and herbs. Skin tents provided shelter and could be moved from one location to the other.
In this traditional setting, the Inuit lived entirely from their surroundings. Their diet consisted largely of seal or caribou meat which was usually eaten raw, whether fresh, dried or frozen.
Animals provided more than food. Caribou fur was used for parkas and pants, sealskin for boots. Even bird shims were sometimes turned into garments. Animal skims provided the basic materials to make tents for summer time shelter and boats for summer travel. Bones and antlers became tools and toys. Bird bones made excellent needles, and antlers either became brakes for a dog sled or were fashioned into fish hooks.
Sinew was used as thread. Animal fat was rendered into oil and was poured over a wick of moss in a stone kudlik (lamp) to produce a long, low flame. This supplied an igloo or tent with heat and light. The various Inuit groups traded items such as copper, wood or ivory if it was unavailable in their own area.