Inuit Art & Canadian Nationalism

Inuit refers to a certain group of people who had acclimatized and inhabits the cold and harsh climatic regions of Canada. They are similar to Eskimos who live in Arctic regions of Russia and Europe and North America. Their art is a reflection of urbanization with elements of cultural experiences which denote the activities carried out within their daily life as dictated by the environment. A good Inuit art work is the one mended with vast landscape and traditional Inuit culture. Achieving such Inuit art work is sometimes challenging and controversial but it is a reflection of honest work. The Canadian Inuit art is a good example such as the one brought out by James Houston writings. James Houston was first artist to get involved in the Canadian Inuit art in 1948 with the objective of searching new land to paint.

People living in the new land were very friendly, warm and the environment was vast, beautiful and cold. Interaction with the Indian and Inuit people in the Arctic provided the best opportunity for James to introduce Inuit culture to the world. Introduction of Inuit culture was made possible with the use of remarkable stories and art. There are four main particular exciting Inuit art work by James Houston in his writings. These include the White Archer, Akavak, Worlfrun and Tiktaliktak (Graburn, 2). The art work was collected in a good volume which illustrates the story about Arctic and nationalism.

Many Canadian art and craft galleries, souvenir shops, and museum stores clearly confirm that tourist art is a measure of Canadian and Inuit work. Inuit art for the last say half a century has been appropriated by people living in the southern part of Canada. In addition, Inuit art is seen as one of the brightest jewels representing Canadian cultural mosaic. Inuit art is considered as one of the most important resource in establishment of Canadian identity. In many particular instances, Inuit images are viewed as symbols for identification in part or whole of the Canadian identity. Many Canadians identify themselves with Inuit art as it is one of the unquestionable means of identity.

The Canadian government is usually devoted to identify between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal peoples. The rhetorical power is used to establish a body of identifications for national identity. However, there are other indigenous images used by Canadians to represent national identity but Inuit art is the most outstanding. Indigenous art also play a very important part in identification and act as a symbol for national community identification. Organizational, individual and institutional identification needs in Canada are served through striking graphic power, prints, carvings and ability to be recognized (Maryllbelle, 1). The good graphical work creates expressive symbols for federal government. This is a clear representation of Canadian symbolism in the form of art graphics.

Successive governments have tried to recognize the construction of unique Canadian identity as one of the most critical part of their mandate. For purpose of maintaining consistency, the Canadian government has tried to distinguish Canada from other countries through the use of Inuit art. A line on map could have been used to differentiate Canada from other countries but since confederation, art graphics have been in use. There are certain drawbacks in any given state that result to individual division such as ethnicity, language or religion. The use of Inuit art has no negative effects as are related to religion, language or ethnicity. Canadians have tried to differentiate themselves from U.S and other countries through the use of symbols or identity with genuine characteristics.

Canadian identity has been constructed by constant shifting rhetorical identification and division process that aim at bringing communities together. It also aims at separating communities from one another as history shows how Canadians have tried to negotiate the nature of the countries core values. Identification of core values is shaped by discursive resources which were developed in the course of European settlement in Canada. Association of parties with material objects creates a marker which supports a sense of nationalism.

A wide or broad group of cultural producers creates relevant material objects that interprets objects deemed fit for forming cultural equipment. Artists, dancers, painters, filmmakers, musicians, writers and sculptors play a very important part in promotion of patriotic education. This has been performed since the early twentieth century whereby material objects are provided in styles which fit the service of nationalism. In addition, societies rely on advertisers, teachers, publishers, journalists and other opinion leaders to interpret material objects. The same artists and opinion leaders disseminate the interpreted information to people with a view of constructing an appropriate conceptual linkage between material objects and national feeling (Marryllbelle, 1).

The Canadian government plays a very important role in promotion of art work through incorporation of educational programs in schools and other public social gatherings. The Canadian government officially clarifies stresses and introduces appropriate pieties for material resource assortment that reflects values of country through public presentations, campaigns and internet. The use of public campaigns is to familiarize people about cultural products which help to promote art work. Canadian citizens store have their confidence in attitudes relating to resources for future reference. The retrieval of cultural attitudes arises in instances when certain national institutions try to stir up patriotic passion. Vocabularies at national levels are considered as reasons for, results of, and development of identification constructions on the basis of common interests of the citizens.

The Inuit art is a reflection of Canadian language which tries to emphasis on cultural values leading to diversity of human ideas. Language is one main tool of identification which provides individuals with self worth and a sense of belonging. In the event a small group of community living within a given state loses its language, the members of the community feel left out in their identity as a cultural group. To avoid loosing identity by certain minority groups, certain commissions are formed to fight for rights of such minority communities (Stern & Stevenson, 8). Other alternative way of preserving the dignity of minority groups is through the use of art work which reflects the cultural believes of the individuals.

A close look on the Canadian native art reveals that it has contributed to international exposure over the past centuries. Huge budgets have been drawn by government to support promotion of art with a view of carving out a national identity. Promotion of Eskimo art is one relative example to reflect the level at which government is in support of the Inuit art. The history of Canada showed that establishment of a national identity figure was made to promote cultural features. The desire to establish an iconic identification figure arose since the 19th century. This is a time when the Canadians wanted to establish their own identity separate from that of United States and British. After the First World War, considerations relating to public opinions changed through the efforts of seven artists (Grabaum, 1).

Although they had no roots in Canada many of them were trained in Europe, their exposure and expertise into artistic work made the group of seven to travel many parts of Canada and established became one of the most sought Canadian arts. The spirit of Canada was captured in the national art and a modern style was clearly identified as suitable and had unique features reflecting Canadian culture. A large number of young artists in Canada started painting in the same vein as the seven artists. The disbursement of the seven artists group led to promotion of art work in the entire Canada. The Second World War provided a chance for Canada to establish Canadians artists (Pupchek, 7). This marked the turning point in the category of Canadian art history. Canada was very enlightened and happy with their war time military in addition to artistic efforts. This led to a revival in Canadian nationalism in various fields of art and culture which has been depicted in many journals and magazines.

Nationalization of the Canadian art was a step prompted by government position to increase its support to art work. James Houston’s travel to the North gave him the chance to meet with the Inuit’s where he collected some of their art work, crafts and souvenirs. He inspired other artists who eventually started to carve small figures using soapstone which were basically used to make pots and lamps. The Inuit art was very instrumental as it was used to establish Canada as a great Northern power. The favorable image of Inuit art being products of nature, creativity of artists in ecological matters, lack of competition with mainstream art and adept at creation of materials made it possible for Inuit art to be used as a sign of Canadian national heritage.

Works Cited

Graburn, N. Inuit Art and Canadian Nationalism: Why Eskimos?, Why Canada? 1986. Inuit Art Fall. Viewed  on 16 July 2010 from

Maryllbelle, M. Talking Chiefs to a Native Corporate Elite: The birth of Class and Nationalism among Canadian Inuit. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press. Viewed from

Pupchek, L. True North: Inuit art and the Canadian Imagination. 2001, American Review of Canadian Studies. Vol  2. P 5-15

Stern, P and  Stevenson , L. Critical Studies: An Anthology of Contemporary Arctic Ethnography. 2006, Nebraska: University of Nebraska press.