Her design interventions might not be considered a building at all

Groundwork: Into the Island is now on view in our Main galleries. Text excerpted from the curatorial statement. Photograph by Matthieu Brouillard © CCA. Xu Tiantian’s opening talk is available here.

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Documenting Inuit Life

Olivia Lya Thomassie explores the drawings of Tuumasi Kudluk

Tuumasi Kudluk, Igloo (verso), 1980. © Avataq Cultural Institute and Willie Thomassie Sr.

Drawing annotation:
Sun. When the days are long, the sun does not set. It is very hot and nice weather. An elder, a true Inuk would say “kanatsaliqquq,” “kanattuq” meaning that it is extremely hot weather. There are many seals on the ice during this time, “kanatsalirmat”

Born in 1902 near Kangirsuk, Nunavik, Tuumasi Kudluk was a knowledgeable man with exceptional hunting skills. He illustrated Inuit life and the territory on which he lived, and he often included oral transcriptions and written descriptions to explain his work, which comprises over twelve hundred drawings and several carvings. This work is the largest collection of objects by a single artist that is held by the Avataq Cultural Institute, an organization that cares for many pieces by artists from Nunavik.

Tuumasi Kudluk was also my great grandfather. Though I never met him, since he passed away about a decade before I was born, my eldest cousin told me that he had a great sense of humour. Going through the Avataq collection, I can notice that. I also notice that he was living in two parallel worlds at the same time: the first being that of Inuit nomadic life and the second being the world that the white people brought to the North.

Both of these realities fascinate me. My aunt once told me about how the communities in Nunavik were settled according to the Hudson’s Bay trading posts and in no correlation with where Inuit used to travel in the camps. She wished that the community where Kangirsuk is was instead located in Qinguaq, up the river where there is plenty of fish. Seeing Tuumasi Kudluk’s illustrations related to the land and means of transportation further enlightens me—mostly the drawings about transporting boats with dog sleds. People living in the South are often unaware that summer does exist in Inuit Nunangat, which makes us all forget: what did people do with their dogs if they weren’t travelling with their dog sleds?

Inuit who live in the North and still practice hunting and fishing on a daily basis know the territory like the backs of their hands, compared to Inuit like me who work in offices in the city. It could be hard for people who haven’t been to the territory of no trees to understand the relation between Inuit and the land, but Tuumasi Kudluk’s drawings offer a special kind of insight.

Some drawings he made show igloos and traditional tools and knowledges. Others show the weather stations, the co-op store that was new, people who own guns, and houses built from wood. Tuumasi Kudluk’s works are not only precious for someone like me who is curious about my family history and my culture, but they also serve as important documents created from an Inuk perspective about a time of transition in ways of life in Inuit Nunangat. While it was mostly non-Inuit workers in Nunavik who documented the period, my great grandfather’s drawings and carvings are important and meaningful to understanding an Inuit point of view and the realities of his time.

Tuumasi Kudluk, Igloo (verso), 1980. © Avataq Cultural Institute and Willie Thomassie Sr.

Tuumasi Kudluk, At the Camp (verso), 1980. © Avataq Cultural Institute and Willie Thomassie Sr.

Drawing annotation:
This man misses seeing his relatives. He is showing off because he now has a rifle, a gun which when fired can be heard by animals. He is being told to keep his distance, being reprimanded, and told that this gun does not allow one to kill many animals. He is told to go away, although he had tried to visit his relatives. Ipuligaq to spear something swimming [located above spear] Bow made from antler [located at bottom right corner]

Tuumasi Kudluk, Hunting, 1980. © Avataq Cultural Institute and Willie Thomassie Sr.

Drawing annotation:
Late morning risers, father and son going to the flow edge. These hunters at the flow edge have already caught seals.

Tuumasi Kudluk, Hunting, 1980. © Avataq Cultural Institute and Willie Thomassie Sr.

Drawing annotation:
A camp inland where there are fish (inuksuk indicates good fishing), a man returning from a caribou hunt

Tuumasi Kudluk, Food, 1980. © Avataq Cultural Institute and Willie Thomassie Sr.

Tuumasi Kudluk, Others, 1980. © Avataq Cultural Institute and Willie Thomassie Sr.

Drawing annotation:
These people of landfast ice don’t know what a watch is. They are measuring the time. The man with his arm extended is measuring the distance between the sun and land using his mitten. February. Measuring how much the days have become longer in February using his mitten: Placing it between the sun and land. This is the only reason they have stopped

Tuumasi Kudluk, Work, 1980. © Avataq Cultural Institute and Willie Thomassie Sr.

Drawing annotation:
The man starts to work at eight in the morning, and quits at five in the afternoon. He earns a dime for the day’s work. He fills so many barrels. He says that he [really] earns the dime. The dime used to be divided into four. Tuumasi Kudluk’s father works on filling a lot of barrels with the fat of beluga whales. These barrels have to be sent away by ship. Empty barrels arrive to be filled with beluga whale oil

Tuumasi Kudluk, Igloo, 1980. © Avataq Cultural Institute and Willie Thomassie Sr.

Drawing annotation:
This igloo is very high and it is dripping

Tuumasi Kudluk, History, 1980. © Avataq Cultural Institute and Willie Thomassie Sr.

Drawing annotation:
The co-op is bankrupt due to debts. Below are the causes: Radios, outboards, canoes, ski-doo tracks, rifles, and ski-doos

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