Nunavut 2000 Collection showcases prints from across the territory

Prints showcasing a 'bygone era' of Nunavut life are on display at Iqaluit's Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum.

Prints from 8 communities are on display at Iqaluit's Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum

Kenojuak Ashevak created this aquatint etching, called Small Bird, with Paul Machnik, to help support his 1999-2000 printmaking trip to eight Nunavut communities. (Elyse Skura/CBC )

A new collection of prints from eight different Nunavut communities, including a piece by the late Kenojuak Ashevak, is on display at Iqaluit's Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum.

Paul Machnik, a master printmaker based in Montreal, visited Arctic Bay, Clyde River, Hall Beach, Igloolik, Kimmirut, Pond Inlet, Qikiqtarjuaq and Rankin Inlet shortly after Nunavut officially became a territory — with an etching press at his side and a desire to share the craft with local artists. 

"I travelled door-to-door, as it were," said Machnik, offering training to everyone "from grade school kids to elders." 

At the end of each workshop, the groups would select several pieces to submit to the collection, which would represent their community. 

"For the most part the works were representative of a way of life, of a bygone era in some cases, or a spiritual or mystical note."

Each community had a slightly different style, with graphic images of igloos and snow goggles popular in works from Rankin Inlet and more realistic styles common in other communities.

Rankin Inlet's Alvin Kanak created this print, called Igloo, during a printmaking workshop by Paul Machnik. The piece's graphic design was inspired by working drawings for jewelry. (Elyse Skura/CBC)

'It was crazy' 

The five-month tour of Baffin and Kivalliq communities was not Machnik's first trip to the North. He had been working with Inuit artists "from a distance" since the 1970s and made his first trip to Cape Dorset in 1994.

"It was crazy. It was unbelievable. A real high, if I might say," he said. 

The West Baffin Co-op, an artistic hub for Cape Dorset's famous carvers and printmakers, allowed Machnik to comb through its "incredible collection" of prints and hand-pick the artists he wanted to work with.

After that, he was given a tour of the community by manager Jimmy Manning. 

"We ended up in somebody's house, I didn't know who, and, lo and behold, I look around and I see the Order of Canada, a picture of the Queen and the stamp of the Enchanted Owl," he described.

"Here I was in Kenojuak Ashevak's home. It was this real moment of awe."

Prints on display — and for sale

It was his relationship with Ashevak that would eventually make it possible for him to tour several Nunavut communities. 

The Nunavut 2000 Collection features works by artists from eight Nunavut communities. (Elyse Skura/CBC)

While the federal government had provided him some funding for the trip, Machnik said it just wasn't enough to cover the costs. 

"I said, 'Kenojuak, you know, I'm planning this trip throughout the North to do workshops. Could we do this edition together to raise the money so I can go?'"

The Small Bird print and aquatint etching they created together is one of dozens of pieces on display from now until May 29. Prints from the Nunavut 2000 Collection will also be for sale. 


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