Eskimo Art Is For Kabloona


  • Elizabeth Bell



Art, Biographies, History, Inuit, Starvation, Baker Lake region, Nunavut, Garry Lake region


Oonark was born in the area around Garry Lake and the Back River about 1906. She was married very young, as was customary among the traditional Eskimos, and had many children, eight of whom survived. Her husband died ... (around 1952). At that time there was a famine in the Garry Lake region and Oonark and one of here daughters were starving. They were rescued by a Government Forces plane ... and were taken to Baker Lake .... She was introduced to drawing by some school teachers, and some people from the Wildlife Service who gave her pencils and paper. ... Her drawings were first exhibited in the form of prints (executed by other Eskimo craftsmen) in 1960. ... Oonark also does sewn felt wallhangings, a number of which were recently exhibited in Toronto. ... When I met Oonark and her interpreter, Ruby Angoateegota Arngnaknark, on the occasion of her exhibition of drawings at the Canadian Guild of Crafts in Montreal, Quebec, we talked about what significance here drawings had for her. I asked whether they meant anything specific for her and whether she hoped other people would learn something from her pictures. Ruby replied that Oonark probably didn't think about such things because "they are not in the Eskimo language" .... Much of Oonark's drawing seems to be done to please the prospective buyer or the crafts officer (for whom the artists have great regard). ... Oonark doesn't have any of her drawings in her house - as Ruby explains there was no notion of "art" in Eskimo life. They view their art primarily as something to sell, in order to be able to buy what they need or want. ...