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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 23, 2003 - Issue 94


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Kananginak Pootoogook - Inuit Artist


Kananginak Pootoogook - Inuit Artist Kananginak was born in Ikarasak camp near Cape Dorset, where his father was well known and greatly respected as a camp leader. Until he reached adulthood, he lived by hunting and fishing with his family on South Baffin Island. He settled in Cape Dorset for health reasons at the end of the 50s.

Kananginak was involved from the beginning in the printshop project in Cape Dorset. He was an expert bird hunter from childhood, and this became one of his favourite artistic subjects. Although he had to hunt birds for survival, he learned very early to love them and observe their habits. He is very knowledgeable about the many kinds of beautiful birds that migrate from the South to the Arctic each summer: he observes them from a distance, attentive to their movements, their plumage, and their varied songs. Whether he is depicting an owl, a crow, or a pair of ducks, he renders each in precise detail.

Kananginak Pootoogook has attained an international reputation for his abilities as a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor. He was one of the first in Cape Dorset to actively participate in the first experimental attempts at fine-art printing introduced to the community by James Houston in 1957.

Kananginak continued as a printmaker until 1978, working in all media including stonecut, stencil, copper engraving, and silkscreen on fabric. Later he became proficient in lithography including executing his own drawings directly on the stone. He has established an international reputation as an artist for his close observation of nature and his sensitive rendering of animals and birds. For Kananginak Pootoogook, art - whether his sculptures or his hundreds of drawings and prints - is a means of keeping his Inuit traditions alive in the face of tremendous cultural pressures and change. He was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy in 1980.

"My father had a projection about the future, perhaps because he was one of the very first Inuit to lead in a religious way. By reading the Old and New Testaments he saw clearly outlined that changes were coming to our part of the world, and my father used to say some Inuit will become quite wealthy, like the Kabloona is in some ways, and that is true today. I think there will always be people who will not be able to really support themselves, and those who can. Before machines, the Inuit hunted with only harpoons, and in those days, some Inuit were better hunters than others, so some were better able to look after their families. I remember very well that if one of the camps were short of food, that they would be helped out by wealthier camps. I think this will always be true, regardless of any cultural changes. ...Many times people look at me and think I can speak (English), by looking at my face."

Caribou Family

Kayaker's Reflection

On the Lookout

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