Saturday 17 October 2009

50 Years of Cape Dorset prints

If it weren't for a pack of Player's Light cigarettes, we might not this year be celebrating fifty years of Cape Dorset Inuit printmaking.
According to Houston, the carver Osuitok Ipeelee had been studying the identical printed images of a sailor's head on two cigarette packages, marvelling at the skill and patience it must have required to produce the same likeness repeatedly. Houston's Inuktitut vocabulary was too limited to explain the printing process, so he rubbed ink on a tusk newly incised by Osuitok and pulled an impression of the image on a piece of toilet tissue. Osuitok declared: "We could do that"

James Houston, 1971, pp. 9-11, quoted in Hessel's "Inuit Art: An Introduction".
One of the now most culturally authentic forms of Inuit art came from the synthesis of traditional Inuit carving and observations of southern cigarette packages. When cultures meet, great art ensues.

The Fiftieth Anniversary collection of Cape Dorset prints can be viewed here (hit the link for "exhibits"). Susan's favourite is Ohotaq Mikkigak's Face to Face.

I'd pick Ningeokuluk Teevee's Seasonal Migration, below, though her Imposing Walrus and Kananginak Pootoogook's Owls' Silhouette also rate highly. I'd previously posted here on Teevee's work.
And it wouldn't exist but for the blending of northern and southern influences, mediated through a tobacco package.
Here's Tyler Cowen slapping Benjamin Barber around on related topics.


  1. These examples show quite a unique artistic vision.

  2. That's fascinating. Who'd have thought tobacco could have such a positive effect! And Ningeokuluk Teevee's prints are beautiful.