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After the famine of the 1950s forced the Inuit in the Keewatin area to move permanently off the land and into settlements like Baffin Island and Baker Lake, the women began to make textiles with materials supplied to them by government crafts cooperatives. At first they made kamiks (seal skin boots), socks, mitts and parkas, but in 1964 Jessie Oonark made the first wall hanging and her work was successful enough to persuade other women to create hangings as well.

Where was this textile created?

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The Far North

Art hanging, by Janet Anautilik Nungnik
North America: Canada, Northern Canada, Northwest Territories, Baker Lake; Inuit people
Wool cloth, appliquéd, sewn and embellished with glass beads
87 cm x 70 cm
Gift of Enid Rae MacLachlan
T96.0059 Textile Museum of Canada

A mother with her child on her back looks out from a river’s edge, waiting for her husband to return. The husband can be seen in the distance, sitting in a kayak. The artist appliquéd felted wool cloth, called stroud cloth, on a wool background to represent the figures, and embellished them with bead embroidery and feather stitch embroidery to suggest the colours and textures of the Arctic tundra in the fall.

The creativity and skill which Inuit women have shown in their appliquéd and tapestry woven hangings since the 1960’s is due in part to their practice over many generations of making Caribou skin clothing for their families. In the climate of the Far North, a perfectly sewn, waterproof pair of skin boots can literally mean the difference between life and death for a hunter.

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