Dolls were the 'little friends' that helped this artist through residential school
Helen Iguptak began making her dolls when she was seven years old — and now she's teaching the next generation
Helen Iguptak is an artist living in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. Her specialty is making Kivalliq dolls — and there's a deeply personal history behind that.
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Iguptak's practice of creating dolls began at Chesterfield Inlet Residential School (also known as Turquetil Hall) when she was seven years old. Her close friend taught her the basics of Kivalliq Inuit dollmaking, a centuries-old practice for Inuit people from the Kivalliq region. Creating dolls allowed children to learn important skills like sewing clothing for family members — but for seven-year-old Iguptak, making her dolls was also a meaningful way to reclaim her proud Inuk identity while she was adrift in a powerful sea of whitewashing at her residential school.
Iguptak and her friend were part of the last generation of children to use Inuit play-dolls — until now.
In 1992, Iguptak used her well-worked and aging hands to revisit her youth, creating a doll for the first time since residential school. And her fingers had a better memory than she thought. Now in her 70s, Iguptak is still making dolls with materials like muskox hair, sheepskin parkas and caribou pants with polyester stuffing. And her dollmaking has an important role in her community as she uses her gift to teach the next generation Inuit stories and legends through craft.
In this video, you'll meet Iguptak as she shows you some of the elements of her dolls, which now travel the world (and were even featured at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver).
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