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May we suggest

Features / May 13, 2019

Send and Receive

The converging shores of making and seeing, and the magic of moving hands
Fanny Algaalaga Avatituq, <em>Untitled</em>, (no date). Wallhanging, 96.5 x 68.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Craft Ontario. Fanny Algaalaga Avatituq, Untitled, (no date). Wallhanging, 96.5 x 68.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Craft Ontario.
Fanny Algaalaga Avatituq, <em>Untitled</em>, (no date). Wallhanging, 96.5 x 68.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Craft Ontario. Fanny Algaalaga Avatituq, Untitled, (no date). Wallhanging, 96.5 x 68.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Craft Ontario.

Throughout my school years, from elementary into high school, I took visual art classes. In my final year of high school our assignment was to focus on a single theme, so I chose to work with flowers. I worked with them in many mediums. I created flowers in watercolours, acrylic paints, pencil crayon, charcoal—everything. There are so many ways to capture the beauty of a flower; I was constantly collecting photographs from magazines and trying to find beauty in printed images. That year I learned many new ways of looking at the same thing.

In the past 10 years I’ve become more interested in sewing and creating things with my hands. I’ve been learning to work with beads, leather, sealskin, fur and fabric—those are the new kinds of art materials I am investing my time in. I find that art is a way of expressing your creativity, your skill. It’s about making time to think through how you put colours together, how you combine objects. In that part of my practice, I am finding beauty.

I recently completed my first amautik. I’d never made one before. During that project I had to rely on people’s advice and direction. I got a copy of the pattern, then cut and sewed the materials together. I made it start to finish, and it turned out really well. I’m really happy with it, and happy that it fits the new mom. It’s beautiful, and I was able to do that with my own hands, and with the words of knowledgeable people in my head. After making
it I realized I was becoming interested in how people make their own amautiit—the different techniques and designs they use. I found myself observing the different styles, and how they put it together. I was wondering if there was a different way that worked better, because they must be doing it that way for a specific reason. It makes me want to make another one, even though I don’t need to. I made my first amautik out of necessity, to keep a mother and child warm. Along the way I was inspired to go further, to look at other people’s styles. I found the artistry in that garment now that one’s been in my hands, now that I’ve put one together.

Inuit are also inventors. As time passes, there will be more artistic expressions that may be different from what has been known as Inuit art.

Anything you make with your hands—whether it be sculpted, drawn, sewn—is connected to everything else you touch. Your hands connect you to your food, your family, animals and the earth. Things you make with your hands, whether useful, decorative or expressive, are a good way of connecting to the cosmos. I think art can also transport us to another time. If you really think about it, art has the power to help you see from an entirely different perspective: the artist’s perspective. By looking at art you can observe something about the artist’s memories, their life or their soul. It makes me curious about the decisions one makes in executing their work in certain ways. For example, with the amautik, when I notice a shortened sleeve or a patch, I wonder if it was because the maker didn’t have enough fabric, or if that way of doing things was more practical. I wonder and want to know the different reasons. It’s fun to think about those possibilities.

I have a collection of art pieces: prints, drawings, baskets, wall hangings, dolls, a qayaq, sculptures. Art is a way that Inuit express themselves, and it’s beautiful…because Inuit are artists. There’s artistry in photography and cinematography too, and those practices are still connected to our hands and our eyes. Art signifies who we are and where we’ve been. Art serves to keep the traditions going, and I think that’s what inspires me to collect Inuit art. Some of it is meant to be used in a purposeful way, but art can also be very symbolic of the way life used to be. I like the history that comes from some of the pieces I have, and I appreciate recognizing symbols in the art. I’m not only supporting Inuit by buying Inuit art—because I know who has made most of the things I have, and it’s important to me to support the artists directly—but owning Inuit art also helps reinforce who I am and what I believe in. It’s like witnessing history. In a certain way, a part of our history is still living here in these artworks.

Inuit are also inventors. I’m sure that, as time passes, there will be more artistic expressions, new expressions, different from what has been known as Inuit art. It’s good to be open to new ways of doing things, and to continue to take the time to remember where it all started, how it all started. The interest in commercial sculpture came at a specific time, when we were all looking for ways to trade. Those great artists sculpted works based on the things they could see and feel in each stone. I hope those kinds of skills and details are shared with the new and next generations. Looking around my room and seeing hand-woven baskets compels me to learn how to create a basket, and one day I’ll get there; there is so much to learn and there is so much to understand. —As told to asinnajaq ᐊᓯᓐᓇᐃᔭᖅ

This is an article from our Spring 2019 issue, themed on SPACETIME.

Karin Kettler

Karin Kettler is an artist from Nunavik. She and her sister Kathy perform worldwide as the katajjaq duo Nukariik.