Inuit relationships to water—to oceans, inland lakes and rivers—has been one of storytelling and survival for generations. In this Portfolio, the IAQ investigates these links with the shore, the surface and the deep and what those spaces mean for everything from the spiritual lives of Inuit to food harvesting practices.
A constantly evolving landscape all its own, the surface stretches out towards an imperceptible point on the horizon. For millennia, Inuit have been attuned to the rhythms of the surface of the water and the seasonal cycles of freezing and breaking. As the earth and our climate shift, the increasing unpredictability of sea ice cover is making that relationship more complex and less known. Despite its dangers, the surface remains an endless source of inspiration for artists, depicting sea mammals breaching the water, reflecting sunrise to sunset, or portraying the vessels of Inuit ingenuity, such as the kayak or qamutiik, moving across it in both its frozen and liquid states. The tension of the surface is one often broken by hunters and fishermen, harvesting vital sources of food from the deep.
Mary Okheena Friends Forever (1994) Woodcut 99.1 × 134.6 cm COURTESY CANADIAN ARCTIC PRODUCERS
Shirley Moorhouse Pure Energy (2000) Wool stroud, cotton thread, beads, smoked tanned caribou hide and sealskin 176.7 × 149.5 cm COURTESY CROWN-INDIGENOUS RELATIONS AND NORTHERN AFFAIRS CANADA RIGHT
Itee Pootoogook Rear of Canoe (2011) Coloured pencil 50.2 × 66 cm COURTESY MARION SCOTT GALLERY
Thomassie Kudluk Fishing Scene (n.d.) Stone, string and wood 14 × 16.5 × 2.5 cm COURTESY WADDINGTON’S
Niviaksiak Polar Bear and Cub in Ice (1959) Sealskin stencil 34.3 × 61 cm COURTESY WADDINGTON’S
This Feature was originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly.
See the Shore
See the Deep