ᖃᓪᓗᓈᖅᑕᐃᑦ ᓯᑯᓯᓛᕐᒥᑦ Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios

There is a space tucked away into a condo building on Centre Ave, that hides beneath the noise and buzz of the city that surrounds it. Bricks frame the entrance, and glass windows, sitting next to a large construction site that never seems to end. However, once you open those doors, you enter a calm retreat - the Textile Museum of Canada, not known by many, but loved deeply by the ones who have visited. 

As I continue my expansion into textiles, the museum has been a great source of knowledge for my practice. Their library, artist talks, and of course, exhibitions have opened my eyes to the limitlessness of the textile medium. Currently, they have two shows on displayᖃᓪᓗᓈᖅᑕᐃᑦ ᓯᑯᓯᓛᕐᒥᑦ Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios, and Wild. Both these exhibitions deserve a blog, so today we will be focusing on ᖃᓪᓗᓈᖅᑕᐃᑦ ᓯᑯᓯᓛᕐᒥᑦ Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios and in the following weeks, I will share my findings of Wild with you - but for now, let’s dive in. 

ᖃᓪᓗᓈᖅᑕᐃᑦ ᓯᑯᓯᓛᕐᒥᑦ Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios is a show that invites the public to discover a little-known story told by a group of Inuit artists and printmakers in Kinngait, Nunavut. The small town of Kinngait is on Dorset Island, situated within a region that has been inhabited for over 2000 years, first by the Tuniit or Dorset people and then by the Inuit. In the Inuit language, Kinngait refers to the geography of the land meaning “mountain,” however, the land has also been called Sikusilaq, which means “where there is no ice.” 

 In the 1950s, the Canadian government was encouraging the production of decorative items as a way to increase economic development in the north. This development led to Sanaunguabik (“the place where things are made”) being opened in Kinngait in 1956. It was run by James Houston and his wife Alma, who travelled north as part of the Canadian Handicrafters Guild in 1949. They created a space that supported diverse craft practices, from stone carving to sewing and to eventually printmaking in 1957. 

 The artists were encouraged to sell their work to the Hudson Bay Company, which would then be resold to the Canadian Handicrafters Guild. Their first public sale occurred in December of 1958 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was a success, which led to the creation of the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative (WBEC) so that the artists could directly sell their work to help the development of their community by producing regular collections to be sold. 

 This textile printing venture is the main topic of the exhibition, cataloguing the early years of the WBEC, celebrating the diverse experimentation and spirit of the studio throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Thanks to the generous support of both northern and southern individuals, this project was able to take shape through their willingness to share their knowledge with the curatorial team. 

There are over forty textiles, four paper prints, archival photographs, interviews, and other forms of Inuit graphic art included in the exhibition. Most of the work is printed textiles displayed as yardage. However, there are also framed prints of select patterns that highlight the versatility of these motifs. The patterns depict traditional ways of life, stories, and legends, creating a connection between the contemporary Inuit community and their resourceful ancestors. 

Currently, the Kinngait Studios have moved into the Kenojuak Cultural Centre in 2018 and are still going strong. The centre is named after Kenojuak Ashevak (1927-2013), who is one of the community’s most esteemed artists, best known for her Enchanted Owl print. She also one of the artists included within this exhibition, along with work from: 

Anna Kingwatsiak (1911–1971)

Anirnik Oshuitoq (1902–1983)

Eegyvudluk Pootoogook (1931–2000)

Innukjuakju Pudlat (1913–1972)

Ishuhungito Pootoogook (1939–)

Iyola Kingwatsiak (1933–2000)

Kananginak Pootoogook (1935–2010)

Lukta Qiatsuk (1928–2004)

Lucy Qinnuayak (1915–1982)

Mary Samuellie Pudlat (1923–2001)

Osuitok Ipeelee (1922–2005)


Parr (1893–1969)

Paunichea (1920–1968)

Pitseolak Ashoona (1904–1983)

Pudlo Pudlat (1916–1992)

Sharni Pootoogook (Sharnee) (1922–2003)

Sheouak (1923–1961)

Sorosilutu Ashoona (1941–)

Ulayu Pingwartok (1904–1978)

There are also contemporary fashion designers involved in this exhibition, whose work explores the legacy of the Kinngait Studios. Their work celebrates and explores a combination of traditional Inuit garment structure, textile techniques, and contemporary issues. The designers are Martha Kyak of InukChic, Nooks Lindell of Hinaani Design, and Tarralik Duffy of Ugly Fish.

I could not recommend this exhibition enough, so if you have not had the chance to check it out, you still have time. ᖃᓪᓗᓈᖅᑕᐃᑦ ᓯᑯᓯᓛᕐᒥᑦ Printed Textiles From Kinngait Studios runs until August 30th, 2020 on the 3rd floor of the Textile Museum of Canada. The museum even offers Pay-What-You-Can admission on Wednesday evenings from 5 pm to 8 pm, so you have no excuse not to go.  

All the information used to create this blog was found in the exhibition catalogue provided by the Textile Museum of Canada, under curation from curatorial lead Roxane Shaughnessy, and project advisor Heather Igloliorte from the WBEC. All artwork and archival photographs are not my property, their rights and ownership are connected to their respectful owners in full. 

Comment below what you thought of the exhibition, or if you plan to go check it out before it closes in a few months. 

- Sarah Zanchetta

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