“She is Transforming:” Inuit Artworks Reflect a Cultural Response to Arctic Sea Ice and Climate Change


  • Kaitlyn J. Rathwell




bridging knowledge systems; Indigenous knowledge; Inuit art; climate change; Arctic sea ice; resilience; adaptation; values


Seven Inuit artists reflect their lived experience of disappearing sea ice and climate change in their artworks. Living in Pangnirtung and Cape Dorset, Nunavut, for five months in 2013 and one month in 2015 enabled me to build relationships with artists and to initiate collaborations for this project. I examine how the artworks and artists use symbolism, metaphor, and other aesthetic devices to convey messages about their lived experience of sea ice and climate change. Stories told by artists about their artworks emphasize the importance of adaptation and interconnectedness and embrace themes about transformation and renewal. The insights provided by the artists participating in this research are crucial in the context of bridging knowledge systems to enhance our understanding of and potential responses to environmental change. Connecting with the intangible aspects of knowledge systems, such as emotional response, values, and identity, is an ongoing challenge; yet, accounting for these aspects of knowledge is a critical component of salient and legitimate environmental governance. Artists and their artworks can illuminate the less tangible aspects of knowledge about change and hence have an important role to play at the interface of diverse knowledge systems.