Kananginak Pootoogook was one of the original four artists to work with James Houston in developing the printmaking program in Cape Dorset. Unlike many other artists in the studio, who favoured an abstract style, he preferred a naturalistic and documentary approach to his compositions. Kananginak’s early work is characterized by wildlife imagery that stands out because of the unusual angles from which animals are shown, including occasionally from the rear, as is the case here. These unconventional points of view are drawn from both personal memories and an accumulated body of knowledge from a lifetime of hunting out on the land. Kananginak had studied the particular movements of caribou from a young age, and being able to read the animal’s body language was advantageous for a hunter trying to remain undetected. As the artist noted, in this print, the relaxed posture of the caribou is a sign that the animal has not yet sensed the presence of the advancing hunter.
Caribou have long been integral to the survival of Inuit, both as a source of nourishment and as a material for clothing and tools. It is unsurprising then, that many Inuit find the sight of them comforting. Asked about the print in an interview with Ingo Hessel, art historian, Kananginak said, “Seeing a caribou gives me a warm feeling, it’s like hearing beautiful music, like when a singer or dancer touches your heart. In Inuktitut we have an expression that talks about the warm feeling you get starting from your forehead and up over your scalp. That’s how I feel about this image – a kind of warmth.”