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One Drawing that Encompasses a Life

Siassie Kenneally's All the Things That I Have Seen

Jul 07, 2021
by Patricia Feheley and Siassie Kenneally

Una apiqsugaq uvani Inuktitut.
Unlike her cousins, Annie Pootoogook (1969–2016) and Shuvinai Ashoona, the focus of Siassie Kenneally’s (1969-2018) drawings is material culture, both traditional and contemporary. All the Things That I Have Seen (2016) was drawn immediately after the suicide of her son. It is a keystone; each section is filled with tiny images that mirror her life, from her family bible to John Lennon’s glasses and from harpoons to global symbols.– Patricia Feheley

This is me crying because of my son’s suicide, holding a globe full of images from my life. I made a list of the things that I wanted to draw and made this drawing. It took a month to finish. In front of me is my mother’s qulliq (oil lamp). Below that is an image of my uncle Namonai, who passed away. He used to go kayaking and he would flip his kayak and then right it. Below that the Inuktut says Nunavut and Kinngait (Cape Dorset), followed by the inukshuk and star from the Nunavut flag. Behind me is a religious symbol. The candleholder holds the whole wide world, fire and the cross, which represents a reverend: my grandfather, Agiak Petaulassie, who was a minister in the Anglican church. Above that there is a rock formation that I remember from when my family would go fishing at the weir at Saaturittuq. We would take a break and have tea, sitting on this rock. Above that is the area where we used to camp as a family. The inukshuk made by my father. It is spring or summer. Over the camp area drawing is the northern lights, with star formations (Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Puppy and Kite). There is also a full moon. The drawings in the circle are divided into sections. Above my head are two sections about my life. Running across the second section is a dream that I had in which I was walking towards this little light and had a far way to go.


Things from My Life 1


A large drawing of my grandfather Agiak Petaulassie, who was an Anglican minister; a little sling shot to catch geese; a rope; the first broom that I ever saw; hair bands; a butterfly (I love butterflies); the symbol of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative that came from an original drawing by my grandmother Sheouak Parr Petaulassie; boots belonging to me and my grandmother (we had identical red boots); a Pilot Fineliner that I use to draw; a block of gold that I saw in a picture at my school; a heart flanked by a cup of cocoa (above) and my father’s fishhook (bottom left); my symbol of peace (I love being at peace); a clock; Pitseolak Ashoona’s glasses (she was my other grandmother); candy; the Bible that I would read with my mother; the candle used for services in the church with the chalice for the wine and the cracker that you got during service; the dish that held the holy crackers; the shovel used to bury people; my mother’s vase; my grandmother’s pee pot; a feather that we used for dusting; my first baby bib; a stop sign that my brothers and I used to practice stopping with on our bikes, when were too young to drive; the money symbol; my son’s casket (my grandfather and my sister are buried in the same place); an old burial ceremony, when they used rocks to cover the body; Canada—where we live


Things from My Life 2


Sled dogs and an igloo; mittens; a game with bones that belonged to my father; my father’s .308 gun and the knife that he always carried; the goggles he made out of caribou antler; a whale or walrus vertebra (this bone was only for men); my father hunting in caribou clothing; his harpoon, which he gave me and that I still have (he made it before he had a girlfriend, when he was very young); this little stone that I found under the ground that was actually the blade of an ulu (woman’s knife) from long ago; a caribou shoulder for scraping skin; the RCMP officer called Gordon, who died in a boating accident in Kinngait; a bird stretcher for making kamiik (boots); a little thimble; a little sewing basket; an E7 disc number photograph that I saw in a magazine; my father’s tool for making fishing nets; my little brother’s small komatik (sled); a plug from when we had electricity for the first time; an old-time pen and ink set that they used to use for drawing; the little spoon that we used when fishing to scoop the snow out of the hole in the ice; a cup; my first birth certificate; a Jolly Jumper; a female egg with male sperm; a twoheaded person that I saw in a picture (conjoined twins); dice that we would play with; a duck’s nest where we would gather eggs; a boy and a girl at the time that they are discovering that males and females are different; a ring for marriage; a spinning toy; my mother and father’s handprints; my footprints; a list of important dates, such as when we went to our camp to fish in July


Things I Remember


Charlie Chaplin (we saw him on TV); John Lennon’s eyeglasses; a stop sign from the South; a little necklace with a snake; jacks we played with when we were young; a snake representing the first time that I touched one; an oldtime cigarette package (for a long time they had no filter); handguns that people use in the South but not up North; vodka that kills a lot of people; the RCMP officer that was shot in Kinngait; marijuana; Greenpeace; a nursing station; a car from a long time ago in Africa; rain and clouds; a war zone where a long time ago there was a war going on; beer stein; birth control pills that my mother used for the first time; the needle that kills people and gives vaccines; playing cards; a spoon, fork and knives; the sunshine that grows everything in the whole wide world; another war zone, from WW2; a dangerous shark (they are dangerous when people are around); the airplane we used to go on before Nordair; a basketball that we used to play with; a hurricane down south; Marilyn Monroe’s glasses; a football; a rubber ball that we had as children; a snail; an iPad; the moon eclipsing; TB (the virus that killed a lot of people); an old-time Ski-Doo (from when we were first getting Ski-Doos in Kinngait); a slingshot used to catch ptarmigan.


Things From Away


The Hindenburg; the first tree that I ever saw; the first telephone; a volcanic eruption and people running away from it; an earthquake; the space shuttle that crashed; a Canadian symbol; a Soviet Union symbol; a German symbol1; a US symbol; a Nunavut flag; a tool that my father made; diapers from when we first had them; a spoon for baby food and a bowl; a walkie-talkie that we used to use in town; the Olympic torch; the first cactus that I ever saw; an old-time wagon; the surgeon that operated on my mother; hippie-days pants; my father’s axe and hammer; ice that we used to melt for water; light bulbs, which we saw for the first time when we got electricity; a crab; a hummingbird that I actually saw in Saaturittuq when I was a child; my father’s favourite hammer; the first water tap; a raven’s footprint.


Things I Remember


A polar bear (I love polar bears, but I am allergic to polar bear meat); my father’s slippers; my mother’s water pot; my mother’s tea kettle; my hat; a one-handed slingshot that you put a rock in (my brother made one for both of us); our dog who was half-husky and half-wolf; the yarn that my mother and I used to make the belt for my father’s caribou parka; my first fishing hook and spool of thread; my new slippers; my father’s boots for spring; a harmonica; a thermos; mosquitos that we don’t like in summertime; a leaf that we picked from the tundra and ate in the summertime; my first needle and thread; the first stretched sealskin that I made myself; male and female clams that we used to dig up at low tide; blackberries that we gathered in fall; whale tail for the women’s feast; the first fox that I cleaned and stretched by myself; the first slippers that I made from sealskin; flint and rocks used to start a fire; dried fish meat; an amauti (woman’s parka) that my mother made; bees that are dangerous; my father’s mittens for the spring; my first fish; a little game made of wood with a metal end that we would play with; a tool to get the snow off of skin clothes (this could be antler); leaves that I used to eat from willow trees; my father’s handmade knife; my first pencil and eraser; the fox trap that I used to help set; summertime flowers that I love; a drying rack (that would be used above a qulliq); my first ulu; my first duffel sock; aged walrus meat; my pet rabbit.


Things From the South


Tim Horton’s coffee; brown sugar that we had in the old days; an eagle from the US; ice cream; a lollipop; the matches that we used long before we had lighters; our favourite candy (liquorice and mint); a piece of paper; a black-and-white TV that we had for the first time; the CBC news; coffee; Export “A” tobacco; Players tobacco; jam; butter; Red Rose tea; toothpaste; candy; a toddler chair; a lighter; a little toy we played with; sugar cubes; Carnation milk powder; a baseball; a baseball bat; a hockey stick and a puck; a record player; a ribbon; money; a candy cane for Christmas; cherries and candies shaped like fruit; bullets; pilot biscuits; a present; toffee; coins (a penny, nickel, dime and quarter); tobacco; little gums that were in a package; a pretend cigar made from candy; nails.


Things from Cape Dorset 1


A ship called the Nascopie that sank; first co-op building; my father’s pipe; the seal that I held for the first time just before it died; my first drum; my father’s axe; my first bracelet, which had my name on it (it says “Siassie” in Inuktut syllabics); my father’s gas tank; his tool and his chisel; James Houston; an old metal gas tank; oil for Ski-Doos or motors; the first post office sign; my mother’s bucket for doing laundry; old oil storage vats on which Kananginak [Pootoogook] made a drawing (a big truck would deliver it to the houses); what I learned in school: units of measure, algebra, the alphabet (English above and Inuktut below), numbers, and colours. (I loved school. I loved learning about everything. I loved gym, sports, soccer, hockey, football, volleyball and karate. I got to blue belt and then we went to the military base, and I became a Brownie and a Girl Guide. I loved learning about the law, the court system and the federal government; about criminals, being a physician, an accountant, a judge; taking care of money and budgeting; astronomy, sunshine, minerals, water, ocean, air and clouds. Everything!


Things from Cape Dorset 2


Our tent, made by my mother, by hand, with an old fashioned sewing machine; a bow drill to make fire; a ball that my father used to use to exercise his hand; a rock with holes; a juniper branch for making a fire; a tool used to hunt hooded seal; the first co-op where I met James Houston and Terry Ryan; a scarf that I used to wear; a honey bucket and new toilet; a ship’s wheel; my father’s kakivak (fishing spear); a Pepsi can (my favourite pop); an accordion toy made of string and two marbles; a Coca-Cola bottle; camping fuel; a funnel; a gas lamp; flour; a sign for the Housing Corporation; my father’s chisel.


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