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Mark Igloliorte's "Kayak is Inuktitut for Seal Hunting Boat"

Word Play: 5 Works on Language

Feb 20, 2020
by Napatsi Folger

As a reluctantly admitted millennial, what immediately struck me about Igloliorte’s Kayak is Inuktitut for Seal Hunting Boat was its meme-like qualities. His use of the classic stroked Impact font, common to so many of the internet’s memes, stands out boldly against the already attention-grabbing bright yellow painted canvas. The image resembles a technical drawing of traditional Inuit qajaq building.

What makes this piece of work brilliant is the way it directly subverts the acculturation of Inuit language into English—qajaq, as it is spelled in Inuktitut, has been changed to kayak—by incorporating mainstream media into high art. The words that serve both as the title of the piece and its central message are a strong directive to the consumers of the art; a reminder that kayaking, a leisure activity largely only available to a middle-class or higher southern cohort has is origins in ancient Inuit tradition.

It is a bold reclamation of our language and ideas in a modern world where assimilation and cultural diversity are either intentional or accidental biproducts of rapid globalization. I love this piece because it reminds the world of the lasting impact of Inuit ingenuity and language.     

—Napatsi Folger, Contributing Editor

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