Page from a Sketchbook
Felt pen, graphite, coloured pencil, ink
35.7 x 28.1 cm
Gift of Professor Sandra Freedman Witelson, inv. 2012.403
When paper and drawing materials were first introduced into Inuit settlements, artists quickly realized that they could use these materials to document their communities’ ways of life. Early drawings and sculptures are often covered with explanatory notes in Inuktitut syllabics, as seen here in Talirunnilik’s drawing. The effort to record Inuit knowledge and history by blending text and visual imagery can be understood as a form of cultural resilience during a period of profound change.
Talirunnilik is primarily known for his narrative sculptures of seasonal Inuit migrations by boat, which were inspired by his own life experiences. Although his sketchbook drawings are very different from his sculptures in medium and content, both attest to the artist’s successful attempt to introduce personal recordkeeping into art. In this drawing, he tells the story of his family’s arrival in Kuujjuarapik in 1910, highlighting the community’s dwellings and activities and describing the lives of the people he met. He explains how Inuit from the Belcher Islands arrived over the ice in the winter and stayed in temporary igloos, in contrast to the town’s permanent residents, and recounts his departure from the community to Inukjuak following his marriage.