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humanities 351 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 it, whereas with the Aadopted@ tongue, it=s the other way around B you=re the one who needs to mother it, master it, and make it belong to you.= That being said, when Huston returns to childhood people and places, she realizes that she speaks with a foreign accent. Her book is a fascinating study of this frightening between. (DAWNE MCCANCE) Judith Nasby. Irene Avaalaaqiaq: Myth and Reality McGill-Queen=s University and University of Washington Presses. xi, 130. $32.95 This handsome book serves as a retrospective catalogue and celebratory tribute to Irene Avaalaaqiaq, renowned Inuit printmaker, carver, and needlewoman of Baker Lake, Nunavut. Although an accomplished artist in several media, Avaalaaqiaq is best known for her colourful wall hangings created from stroud, a lightweight wool fabric embellished with embroidery floss. Judith Nasby, director of the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre in Guelph, Ontario, skilfully interleaves information germane to situating Avaalaaqiaq=s visual and verbal narratives within relevant cultural and historical contexts. Irene Avaalaaqiaq was born sometime after the mid-1930s on the north shore of Tebesjuak Lake, about one hundred kilometres west of Baker Lake. Inuit residing in that region are often referred to as the Caribou Inuit of the Barren Grounds. Avaalaaqiaq was raised on the land by her widowed grandmother, since her parents had died during her early childhood. Her grandmother was a successful hunter and prolific storyteller, and inspired a love of Inuit legends and mythology in her granddaughter. Avaalaaqiaq=s art works are informed by these richly evocative narratives, illustrating an epoch when humans and animals communicated with each other and even experienced co-transformation. Other facets of her past life also appear, imagery that evokes memories of fear, hunger, isolation, and animal/human interactions. The artist=s grandmother passed away during a time of great hardship in the North. By the mid-1950s, news of widespread starvation prompted the federal government to establish social services in Baker Lake and other Arctic communities. Many Inuit relocated to the settlements, and government -sponsored co-operatives encouraged the production of soapstone carvings, followed by printmaking and other media. By the 1970s Avaalaaqiaq had married and was raising nine children, including two adoptees. She became an active member of the Sanavik co-operative established by Jack Butler and Sheila Butler. Hallmarks of her >style,= especially in her stroud pieces, incorporate quasi-abstract shapes often rendered in brilliant contrasting colours. The figure-ground oscillations that occur within the animated borders create remarkable visual effects. Her coloured pencil 352 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 drawings of human-animal metamorphoses provide a delicate contrast to the powerful transformative forms dramatized in her stroud wall-hangings. A prolific artist, Avaalaaqiaq has received many commissions from numerous Canadian and foreign institutions. She is a significant provider for a large extended family. The book contains dozens of colourful illustrations highlighting Avaalaaqiaq=s prolific creativity, and also featuring family, friends, and the community of Baker Lake. Black and white photographs depict historical scenes of Inuit life on the land. Three useful appendices conclude the volume. Appendix 1 contains descriptions of the colour plates; several entries include Avaalaaqiaq=s explanation of the subjects. Appendix 2 lists her exhibitions and honours. Appendix 3 incorporates the address she gave at the University of Guelph in 1999, when she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws. Other helpful sections include a list of Inuit individuals who are mentioned in her narratives, a map, and an excellent bibliography. Although Judith Nasby has incorporated a number of photographs depicting contemporary life in Baker Lake, including a recent picture of the artist dressed in her hunting attire astride her skidoo, the present remains conspicuously absent from Avaalaaqiaq=s art work. Regardless of the medium of expression, Avaalaaqiaq=s creations engender a richly evocative past. As she herself attests, >I try to keep our culture alive through my art.= Her art serves as a significant tribute to her grandmother and represents great effort and willingness to transmit her cultural heritage. Although raised on the land, Avaalaaqiaq has experienced first...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 351-352
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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