Nunavik Inuit Art Goes Digital in New Exhibit

May 3, 2023

The Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa is hosting a digital exhibition called Our Land, Our Art, which showcases the life and culture of Nunavik, a remote region in northern Quebec. This exhibition, organized by the Avataq Cultural Institute, brings together digital images and ancient cultural artifacts to tell a story of survival in Nunavik, where over 10,000 Inuit people reside in 14 coastal villages.

Rhoda Kokiapik, executive director of the Avataq Cultural Institute, explains that the exhibition aims to highlight the distinction between Nunavik and Nunavut, the northern territory that includes the rest of the Canadian Arctic. The exhibition features a diverse array of artists and artistic practices from Nunavik.

One of the unique pieces in the exhibition is a video installation showcasing the athleticism of Tupiq A.C.T., an Arctic circus troupe formed in 2018. Additionally, visitors can see everyday objects used by early Inuit people hundreds of years ago, such as a marmite cooking pot, walrus ivory knives, and snow goggles.

Lukasi Kiatainaq, a 23-year-old photographer, is thrilled to have his work included in the exhibition. He started taking photos in 2016 after participating in the Students on Ice program, which takes youths on educational expeditions to the polar regions. Kiatainaq captures stunning images of wildlife and documents fishing and hunting activities in the spring, including the harvesting of a beluga whale. He says, “I just wanted to show what I see in my town and the beauty of the land I live in.”

Qumaq M. Iyaituk, a 68-year-old elder from Ivujivik, presents artwork that demonstrates both the resilience of the Inuit people and the impact of industrialization on their lives. In one painting, she highlights the use of paint, wood, and metal, materials that became available in the modern age. She also shows how two dog sleds are parked close together to block strong winds. In another painting by her sister, Passa Mangiuk, a motorized canoe is covered with canvas to keep snow out and then tied down.

Iyaituk says, “I’m trying to show my culture. How we live, how we survived in the past, and how we still survive. I don’t want my great-grandchildren to forget who we are. Our ancestors survived the land, and I’m proud of them because there’s nothing there. They were so smart. It took the whole community to survive.”

The exhibition also features beadwork and art by Taqralik Partridge, as well as audio recordings of throat singers Evie Mark and Akinisie Sivuarapik. The exhibition will run until October 2024.

As high-speed internet becomes more accessible in the North, young Inuit people are increasingly sharing their experiences on social media. Kiatainaq believes this will bring more attention to his remote homeland. He says, “We’re so isolated from the rest of the world. But with the internet finally starting to get faster, we will see a lot more people sharing information on how we live, how we hunt, and just to

show the world we exist. I feel like this exhibition is a great step towards that.”

Our Land, Our Art offers a unique opportunity for visitors to learn about and appreciate the rich culture and history of the Inuit people of Nunavik. By combining traditional artifacts with modern photography and art, the exhibition presents a comprehensive look at the lives of these resilient individuals who have thrived in such a remote and challenging environment. The digital format of the exhibition also allows for greater accessibility, ensuring that the stories and experiences of the Inuit people of Nunavik are shared with a wider audience.