Nunavut, Canada’s newest territory, has one of the harshest environments in the world. Yet through resilience, adaptability, and fortitude, the Inuit people developed a unique culture and a rich artistic tradition. From the limited materials at their disposal – the bones and skins of the animals they hunted for food – they designed practical clothing that also became a means of artistic expression. By working stone and bone, they created the tools they needed to survive, implements for hunting and daily living, but also artistic representations of the world around them. The new Arctic travel offering this fall will show you how this traditional life evolved into the Inuit art and culture we know today.
We will explore the daily lives, culture, and art making of the Inuit in three communities: Iqaluit, the territorial capital and most urban community; Cape Dorset, which first made Inuit art known to the world; and Pangnirtung, famous for tapestry weaving, sculpture, printmaking, Pang hats, Auyuittuq National Park and bowhead whales.
In Cape Dorset, where handmade prints have been continuously produced since the first collection was released in 1959, we will visit the newly opened Kenojuak Cultural Centre, named in honour of Cape Dorset’s most famous artist. You will see artists at work drawing and carving stone sculptures.
Pangnirtung is just 60 km south of the Arctic Circle. If you are fortunate, you will see the magnificent bowhead whales (14 to 18 metres long) in Cumberland Sound, as well as seals and possibly polar bears. We will visit the old whaling station at Kekerton, where these creatures were decimated almost to extinction, and the Uqqurmiut Arts and Crafts Centre in Pangnirtung, where women have been weaving for almost 50 years. It is one of four such weaving studios in the world.
Things are changing in Nunavut artistically and culturally as the Inuit people strive towards self-actualization. The youth of Nunavut, proud to preserve their culture, are driving the new direction of the arts through diversification in music, film, and performance, as well as the visual arts. You will hear traditional Inuit throat singing and elders talking about how life has changed in their lifetime and have a private viewing of Inuit films, with a young Inuit filmmaker in attendance.
In the Arctic, you are face to face with the whims of Nature: everything you do is weather-dependent. You will experience nature as you never have before. You will walk on the tundra and see ancient Dorset (pre-Inuit) sites. You will taste “country food” - the traditional diet of the Inuit - caribou, muskox, Arctic char, bannock and possibly muktaaq. This is the true North, where no roads exist to link the communities. For most of the year, these are “fly-in” communities, where life today depends on planes to deliver food, mail, and passengers and provide medivac services. Walk on this land, meet its people, and imagine the life of their Inuit ancestors.
Discover a part of Canada few have visited!
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Kyra Vladykov Fisher, MFA, studied her Master of Fine Arts at the University of Calgary, which led her to teach for Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaluit, Cape Dorset and Baker Lake. Over the past 14 years, she worked as Arts Manager for Kinngait Studios, the West Baffin Eskimo Co-op (WBEC) in Cape Dorset; as General Manager of the Uqqurmiut Arts & Crafts Centre in Pangnirtung; and as Manager, Cultural Industries, for the Government of Nunavut Department of Tourism and Cultural Industries in Pangnirtung. She has published articles as well as two guidebooks on Inuit art.