ARCHIVED - Cape Dorset, Nunavut: The Epicentre of Inuit Art

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The Inuit people of Cape Dorset have a solid sense of family, society and tradition, and through their art have managed to place this tiny hamlet prominently on the international arts scene.

Transcript: Cape Dorset, Nunavut

Kinngait...the Inuktitut name for Cape Dorset, meaning high mountain...

...A small, remote hamlet on the southwest tip of Baffin Island in Nunavut....

...It is home to 1,300 people, 95% of whom are Inuit ...

The land is harsh in winter, with average temperatures of 40 degrees below zero, and 6 weeks without sunlight...

There are no paved roads...snowmobiles and ATVs are the main means of travel for all family members.

The traditional Inuit way of life is in evidence everywhere....

....Women wear the amautik, with a hooded pouch to carry their babies

.....Hunting still provides a primary source of food....Caribou and other game are staples of the Inuit diet

....And traditional culture is passed on from generation to generation...

Cape Dorset is considered the epicentre of Inuit Art.

It has the longest history of traditional Inuit printmaking in Canada, and its carvings and prints are marketed worldwide through a highly evolved infrastructure.

Established in the late 1950s, the West Baffin Eskimo Co-Operative was the first Inuit owned co-operative operated by its members.

For over fifty years, the co-op has provided an outlet for artists to create and market their art...

Serpentine, the distinctive dark green stone used for carving, is found within 70 km of Cape Dorset.

Locals bring the raw stone to the West Baffin Eskimo Co-op, where it is weighed, and its value determined.

The Co-op provides the raw materials to the carvers, who in turn supply it with the finished product.

Carvers work outside their homes, in all weather conditions, working the stone in a cloud of dust until the figure emerges....

The stone is then sanded and polished, and the completed piece brought to the Co-op for sale. There are more than 60 carvers living here.

Print Making is equally renowned in Cape Dorset.

At the West Baffin Eskimo Co-op, in the Kinngait Studios, a series of prints is produced each year.

The stonecut print is unique to Canada's North, and has been the chosen medium of the Kinngait Studios for 50 years.

This loon print is the largest ever created, with the template carved in slate.

The slate surface is carefully inked and the delicate paper placed on top.

The ink is pressed into the paper by hand, and the finished product gently lifted off the template.

The print is one of 50 due to be released in the Fall 2008 collection.

Stencilling is another popular method of printmaking at the studios.

The shapes are cut into heavily waxed paper and ink is stamped or brushed onto the paper below.

Master print maker Pitseolak Niviasi mentors and trains 3 younger men in the art of lithography.

This technique involves using grease-based ink, water and a hand-cranked press to produce the images.

The West Baffin Eskimo Co-op provides materials and studio space to any community member interested in acquiring printmaking skills. Many a celebrated Inuit artist got their start in the Kinngait studios.

Perhaps the most famous Cape Dorset artist of all is Kenojuak Ashevak.

Now 80 years old, Kenojuak has received numerous honours, including the Order of Canada and the National Aboriginal Lifetime Achievement Award.

Her captivating style and work has been included in almost every print collection since the late fifties...and her work has been reproduced on Canadian stamps and coins.

Although she has travelled all over the world, Kenojuak still lives and creates her work in her small home in Cape Dorset, surrounded by family.

Like Kenojuak, most people choose to remain in Dorset where they can maintain their traditional culture, producing unique and masterful artworks.

The Inuit people of Cape Dorset have a solid sense of family, society and tradition, and through their art have managed to place this tiny hamlet prominently on the international arts scene.

Its people are proudly passing on their traditions, maintaining their culture and thriving in the place they call home

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