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Nunannguaq: In the Likeness of the Earth

October 10, 2009 to January 17, 2010

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative and to celebrate the remarkable achievement of the internationally acclaimed artistic community of Cape Dorset (Kinngait), the McMichael Canadian Art Collection presents Nunannguaq: In the Likeness of the Earth, an exhibition featuring a large selection of prints, drawings, and sculptures spanning three generations of Cape Dorset artists. Opening at the McMichael on October 10, 2009, and curated by the McMichael’s Anna Stanisz, this exhibition focuses on the representation of the land in the traditional Inuit culture and examines the changes to this vision following the introduction of sedentary lifestyle, southern technologies, and environmental disturbances.

In Inuktitut, the word Nunannguaq translates into “in the likeness of the earth,” which refers to a complex system used (like a map) to record ancient pathways. While travelling across the vast northern territories, the Inuit were guided by maps imprinted in the community’s collective memory rather than on skin or ivory. By using this type of ephemeral mapping, all travellers were encouraged to actively participate in the setting of directions and, in consequence, developed highly sophisticated skills to observe and instantly interpret the land. This ability to swiftly memorize visual forms strongly influenced the works of Inuit artists and was noted by several European explorers who sought out Inuit assistance in their mapping efforts. The historical Inuit maps displayed in Nunannguaq: In the Likeness of the Earth provides an important visual context to the early works of Cape Dorset artists. Remaining in close relationship with the natural environment, several well-known artists such as Kiakshuk, Pitseolak Ashoona, Kenojuak Ashevak, Kananginak Pootoogook, and Pudlo Pudlat recreate a powerful story of a people belonging to the land rather than owning it.

While the ethos of journey continues to live on in the memory of those living in Cape Dorset, the Inuit sense of place and space has irrevocably changed within the last couple of years. Rapid climate change and awareness of the world beyond the Arctic has lead to a new perception of the North within a wider global perspective. The changing Arctic landscape is reflected in the works of new generation artists Shuvinai Ashoona, Annie Pootoogook, Itee Pootoogook, Kavavaow Mannomee, Jutai Toonoo, Arnaqu Ashevak, Ningeokuluk Teevee, and Tim Pitsiulak. Connected to tradition, yet meeting the challenge to renegotiate their place in a global environment on their own terms, this generation has created their own Nunannguaq, a visual map of the Arctic.



Activities and Events PDF (118 KB)

Press Kit PDF (372 KB)

Exhibition Merchandise

Drawing for print Birds and Foliage

Kenojuak Ashevak, (b.1927)
Drawing for print Birds and Foliage
, 1966/1976
felt-tip pen and wax crayon on paper
51.0 x 66.0 cm
Collection of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative Ltd., on loan to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection
CD.40.679
Reproduced with the permission of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative, Cape Dorset, Nunavut

The Lone Figure

Jutai Toonoo
The Lone Figure, 2006
58.4 x 22.9 x 30.5 cm
Reproduced with the permission of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative, Cape Dorset, Nunavut

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