Inuit Art Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari & Khalifa Al-Thani
The inuit • Amongst the natives of North America, the Inuit’s, previously were popularly known as Eskimos, or people who eat raw meat. However, they prefer being called Inuit’s, a word that means “the people’ in the own language. The Inuit’s are found near the Artic circle, in the most distant northern part of the North American continent. • Because of the extreme conditions, trees are non existent in the Artic tundra; therefore, the Inuit artisans in Canada’s Northern Artic region have to contend with what they can easily obtain in abundance from the land and from the sea along its coasts. The most popular material that is also easily obtainable locally, and is never in short supply is stone, and to a lesser extent animal bone, and ivory that is obtained from the tusks of walruses.
In the winter, here the days grow progressively shorter, so much so that on the 22nd of December, the Sun stays below the horizon. This is considered one day of prolonged darkness. Did you know? With the advent of the summer months, this general direction of the sun makes a complete u-turn, and there is continuous daylight.
The sculptures that were made by the Inuit were primarily of animals, and they projected unique physical life like qualities. However, it should not be forgotten that the contemporary sculpture basically originated from their elders having to carve or make tools, weapons and utensils for daily use, that were used in hunting, a basic necessity to survive in that inhospitable climate. This skill was inherited by each successive generation from their elders, and even with the passage of so much time, animal carvings are still quite popular and still generate the most demand. Because the survival of the Inuit depended mostly on Artic animals, their observant skills were keenly developed, which were as important for hunting as they are to produce fine exotic carvings even today.
These observant skills, basically developed for hunting, later proved very useful in carving and shaping intricate sculptures of Artic animals in different postures, like the Polar Bears, walruses, seals, musk, oxen, caribou, geese and various other birds at play and in their natural habitats. The raw power and the beauty of animals are typically depicted in most of the sculptures of the various animals and birds that are made by the Inuit, and which are very visible while looking at an Inuit sculpture. The Inuit’s sculptures are not limited to animals and birds only, but carvings of human figures, using the materials found in this Artic region, showing a large degree of familiarity and closeness both with their materials and the subject they sculpted.
A government worker, James Houston who was himself an artist started the Inuit’s modern printmaking in the late 1950s because he recognized the natural inborn artistic talent of the Inuit artisans. James encouraged the Inuit to commercialize their products for additional income. Although, the Inuit’s used only felt markers and colored pencils for their drawings, they used a greater variety of techniques in their print making. • Inuits primarily use felt markers and colour pencils to produce drawings. Print making is basically a team or joint efforts. To begin with, the artist draws the image that is to be produced. Next the image is exposed or transferred to a stone block, carefully outlining only the image that is to be produced, and cutting out excess material. Lastly black or the required color inks are applied in the requisite quantity using a roller, by which the ink is imprinted on paper. The printer usually prints around 50 or 60 prints per block, after which the image is erased so that the stone block can be used for some other images.
Sculpture and Printmaking symbolization • Because the Inuit believed that the dreams they dreamed contained important information which was pertinent for successful hunting, most Inuit art projected the dreams of the artists. It was firmly believed that their dreams would show where to find animals, or even an impending blizzard, and other things considered important to the Inuit. A lot of material pertinent to the daily lives of the Inuit is taken from their dreams. • Great reverence is placed upon story telling, especially those that depict the Inuit legends and myths in which some animals have extra ordinary powers that can transform them into human forms, with the ability to communicate verbally. Sometimes the Inuit are captured by the mythical animals, and imprisoned in their caves, dens or nests.
Great reverence is placed upon story telling, especially those that depict the Inuit legends and myths in which some animals have extra ordinary powers that can transform them into human forms, with the ability to communicate verbally. Sometimes the Inuit are captured by the mythical animals, and imprisoned in their caves, dens or nests. Sedna the sea Goddess is considered to be the most prominent and is the most revered for the Inuit. Sedna is given this importance because this Goddess is said to be the protector and preserver of marine life, such as whales, walruses, seals and fish, upon which the survival of the Inuit depend, and in their story telling this special Goddess is depicted in numerous ways. In one story, Sedna is shown being duped into becoming the wife of a bird, living in misery in a remote and secluded nest made by this bird as a home for Sedna. Finally, Sedna gained her freedom with the help of her father, who had a boat. Upon finding that his wife had escaped, the bird husband in a fit of fury whipped up a storm at sea, during which Sedna fell into the ocean. To enable himself to escape, Sedna’s father cut off Selma’s fingers. Without her fingers, Sedna sank to the ocean bottom, and her missing fingers were transformed into sea animals
Starting from the 15th century, the Inuit’s began trading with European whale hunters, including missionaries and any other visitors that chanced along exchanging carvings of animals and scenes depicting hunting and camping which were greatly prized because of their being extremely rare, for their requirements of tea, weapons and alcohol. • Due to the brisk demand for their products, the Inuit’s began making miniatures specifically for the whale hunters, to be used for decorative purposes on the trader’s rifles, musical instruments, their boats and even their tools. The Inuit’s specially started making Cribbage Boards and exotic carvings of walrus and narwhal tusks specifically for whalers. In addition to producing products for the whale hunters, the Inuit’s also made Christian imageries in small quantities, obviously in accordance with their demands.
Resources • 1960s, By The. "Inuit Art." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 26 Oct. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inuit_art>. • Finley, Carol. Art of the Far North: Inuit Sculpture, Drawing, and Printmaking. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1998. Print. • "Inukjuak Art History." The Virtual Museum of Canada. Web. 26 Oct. 2010. <http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/pm_v2.php?id=exhibit_home&fl=0&lg=English&ex=440>.