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Sealskin Wall Hanging

Curated Submission
Killiniq (Port Burwell), Nunavut
Circa 1950s
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
110.5 x 104.5
Materials & techniques
Sealskin; Leatherwork, needlework
Emily Annatok
Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library 261.00
Made by Emily Annatok from Killiniq, Nunavut, this wall hanging has been pieced together entirely from sealskin, with contrasting colours of skin sewn together using whip stitches. Inuit women were traditionally responsible for clothing their entire family and good sewing skills were a necessity for cold weather survival. Annatok’s talent is obvious: some of the skin fragments applied are less than 1 centimetre wide. Inuit wall hangings made with wool and other fabrics have become popular since the 1970s, but these sealskin hangings represent an earlier style and type of work that was less common. The tanning process used gives the skin a lingering odour, and it is believed that women were discouraged from producing these impressive wall hangings.
In 1949 the Canadian Handicrafts Guild began encouraging artistic production in a number of Inuit communities, buying stone sculptures, dolls, and other handcrafted items. The Canadian government subsequently expanded this project in an effort to bring Inuit people into a market economy. Arts and crafts programs were established in many communities, and people increasingly began to abandon their traditional lifestyles and settle in these towns. Arts and crafts production became a key means of survival, as there were few other economic opportunities.
Soapstone sculptures are the most recognized Inuit art object; however, carving was seen primarily as a male activity. Women tended to use their considerable talents to create items like dolls and wall hangings. While this production continues today in many communities, Killiniq no longer exists: in 1978 the population of Killiniq was displaced by the government of the Northwest Territories, and the town was abandoned. 
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