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Ningiukulu Teevee

The Narwhal from Nunavik to Nunavut

Artist

Ningiukulu Teevee
Born in Cape Dorset, Nunavut, in 1963

Title

The Narwhal from Nunavik to Nunavut

Date

2016

Materials

Coloured pencil, felt pen, graphite

Dimensions

64.3 x 124.9 cm

Credits

Purchase, Dr. Gurjinder P. Sall Fund, inv. 2017.439

Collection

Graphic Arts

Ningiukulu Teevee’s artistic practice is closely tied to the unikkaaqtuat, Inuit stories that have been told in many ways for generations across Inuit Nunangat (Inuit regions of Canada). Here, Teevee portrays the origin of the narwhal. One variation of the story tells of a woman with long, beautiful hair whose body was covered in bruises. She had married an abusive man. One day, in yet another fit of rage, the man threw her into the sea. As she sank into its depths, the current twisted her long hair into a spiral-shaped tusk and transformed her body into that of a narwhal, turning the bruises on her skin into the animal’s elegant markings and freeing her at last from her abusive husband.


In her contemporary adaptation of the origin of the narwhal, Teevee has chosen to portray the mammal’s mottled skin as QR codes, with small blocky images celebrating traditional Inuit technologies such as the qamutiq (sled), qulliq (oil lamp) and the ulu (woman’s knife). The drawing, which honours the strength of the Inuit – particularly Inuit women – in overcoming adversity, is a fine example of Indigenous Futurism. The Inuit and other Indigenous groups have long been stereotyped as primitive people relegated to the past. The fusion of futuristic technologies and traditional subject matter has become a powerful way for artists to demonstrate the resilience of their culture by imagining it through the past, in the present and into the future.

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