Traditional Inuit Wall Hangings from Baker Lake
Monday to Friday: 10 am to 5 pm
Saturday: 12 pm to 5 pm
Open for theatre performances.
ADMISSION BY DONATION
“Nunavut’s Culture on Cloth” is a collection of wall hangings created by the women of Baker Lake.
Join us on Saturday June 30 at 1pm for a free talk by Judith Varney Burch, curator of "Nunavut's Culture on Cloth." Here is a sneak peek
Using vibrant colors and patterns, the tapestries convey Inuit stories, beliefs, and traditions. The tapestries use strong blocks and lines of color to depict traditional Inuit hunting scenes and enigmatic symbols of significance to Inuit culture. With no written tradition, the Inuit used tapestries such as these to convey their history and beliefs.
The application of women’s traditional sewing skills to the production of textile art first started in the settlement of Baker Lake, Nunavut, in the 1960s. After making wool duffle mittens, socks, and clothing, seamstresses used the leftover multi-colored pieces of fabric to make art to hang on walls. In embracing a foreign artistic medium, the women of Baker Lake made their wall hangings a vehicle for expressing centuries-old Inuit traditions, and gave birth to a uniquely Canadian art form.
Traditionally, sewing was a vital survival skill for Inuit living on the land. The women’s ingenuity and skillful stitching transformed animal hides into clothing, blankets, tents, and even into seafaring vessels such as the kayak. The entire family depended upon the sewing ability of women, from the men on the hunt to babies cuddled in their mother’s parka hood. In the long winter months in their igloos, as women decorated their parkas and garments with lavish colorful decorations, their daughters would learn to sew by observation. All these age-old skills have been transferred to the modern textile art of today’s Inuit women. These talented seamstresses easily apply their distinctive and complex abilities to their modern wall hangings, on which they depict the animals of the Arctic, the lifestyle of the Inuit, and the spiritual perceptions of their ancestors.
“These were all made in the homes of the artists,” Curator, Judith Burch says, “and frequently tell a story of the culture of the Inuit who live in Baker Lake. They are one of a kind and I am thrilled to be able to share them with others. I don’t even sew a button, so I am in awe! I am passionate about what I am doing and I am delighted to have this collection be seen in Whitehorse, and hope it will continue to move much further afield.””
Varney-Burch is an Inuit art specialist, lecturer, curator, owner of art galleries, research collaborator to the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center and honorary board member of the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association.
Baker Lake, population 1,500, is located west of Hudson Bay, in Nunavut. The Territory of Nunavut, with a population of 30,000, is primarily Inuit. Nunavut is the size of Western Europe and one of the most sparsely populated and remote regions of the world.