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56th Annual Cape Dorset Print Collection

It’s such an unlikely circumstance. A small Arctic hamlet – home to a modest 1,300 residents on the southern tip of Baffin Island – is hailed as the most artistic community in Canada. For most of us, Cape Dorset is as distant an idea, as it is a geography – yet it remains a vital centre of art production and the undisputed Capital of Inuit Art. Since its emergence in the 1950s as a creative hub, Dorset carvings, drawings and prints have commanded the appreciation of art enthusiasts the world over. At the centre of this artistic and cultural institution we have the venerable Kinngait Studios.

Kinngait or ᑭᙵᐃᑦ means high mountain and is the Inuktitut term for Cape Dorset itself. Its namesake, the studios, is an integral component of the village’s personality and functions as an important resource, making possible a profound artistic output. Each year, the artists at Kinngait Studios complete many works of art, which are then distributed through the Dorset Fine Arts international network of galleries. That wealth of activity is highlighted by the annual release of a much-anticipated print collection. For 56 years, Kinngait and Dorset Fine Arts has provided a global community with this compendium of extraordinary works in lithography, etching, stone cut, stencil and screen print. This year the collection includes exceptional works by Saimaiyu Akesuk, Kudluajuk Ashoona, Shuvinai Ashoona, Ettusa Kingwatsiaq, Qavavau Manumie, Ohotaq Mikkigak, Cee Pootoogook, Malaija Pootoogook, Pitaloosie Saila, Nicotye Samayualie, Ningeokuluk Teevee and Papiara Tukiki.

The 2015 collection, comprising 31 works, exemplifies the range of imagery and breadth of creative approaches for which Dorset is well known. And this collection truly embodies the diverse spirit of Kinngait Studios. There is work that explores the realm of legend while others are preoccupied with lived experience. We have pieces that depict creatures of land, sea or air alongside those born of pure fantasy. Sombre and serious moments within the collection exist alongside highly playful instances and humourous refrains. This is work that speaks to a universal state of contemporary visual art, while reflecting the unique mindset of Canada’s Arctic.

On behalf of those artists who call Kinngait Studios their creative home, please enjoy the latest instalment of this significant Cape Dorset print collection. Together it forms the most recent chapter in a distinctly Inuit story of tradition embracing contemporaneity, geography as inspiration, art transcending language and a cultural powerhouse shaped by the unlikely.

- William Huffman