The Sunday Magazine

Arctic Beauty: An Inuk artist at work

From the time she was a little girl, Elisapee Ishulutaq knew what do with a sealskin: scrape it clean, measure it up and then -- with a bone or metal needle -- sew it into kamiks, comfortable and warm waterproof boots....
The last of the original Pangnirtung printmakers, Elisapee Ishulutaq, recently appointed to the Order of Canada, continues to draw her life-long memories on anything from foolscap to metal printing plates. (Bess Muhlstock)

From the time she was a little girl, Elisapee Ishulutaq knew what do with a sealskin: scrape it clean, measure it up and then —  with a bone or metal needle —  sew it into kamiks, comfortable and warm waterproof boots.

Her family led a nomadic life on Baffin Island.

Ishulutaq turns a song and a childhood memory into a painted image. (Bess Muhlstock)
In the late 1960's, Elisapee Ishulutaq moved to the village of Pangnirtung. There, she picked up coloured pencils and her life was forever changed. She spent hours hunched over sheets of paper, drawing what she saw around her: men hunting seals, women caring for babies, polar bears out on a jaunt.

Her images are both simple and striking, dream-like. Some are no bigger than a sheet of foolscap. Others cover entire walls.

Inuit artist Elisapee Ishulutaq shares a laugh with the CBC's David Gutnick. (Bess Muhlstock)
​Elisapee Ishulutaq was among the first Pangnirtung artists to make prints. Her art helped define how the Inuit are seen around the world.

Now, at 89, she is the only one of that generation still alive ... and in the spring, she was awarded the Order of Canada.

In the spring, she was in Montreal to work with master printer Paul Machnik in his studio. David Gutnick went to meet her. Elisapee Ishulutaq speaks Inuktitut, so her grandson Andrew was her interpreter. This documentary first aired on The Sunday Edition in June, 2014.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now