Mark Igloliorte on seal hunting and subsistence

Mark Igloliorte. Kayak is Inuktitut for Seal Hunting Boat, 2019. Vinyl reproduction of acrylic on unstretched canvas. Collection of the artist.

On view at the WAG until spring 2020, and curated by Jaimie Isaac and Jocelyn Piirainen, the exhibition subsist explores perspectives on the environment, globalization policies, and the seal hunt.

Kayak is Inuktitut for Seal Hunting Boat is a painting by Mark Igloliorte, an interdisciplinary and internationally renowned Inuk artist from Nunatsiavut, Labrador who teaches at Emily Carr University of Art & Design in Vancouver. A reproduction of this piece is currently on display in subsist.

“I wanted to show how the origin and use of the word Kayak has been skewed to the popular perception of the kayak as a simple tourist’s watercraft.” Mark says. “I want the focus to shift back to seeing the kayak as a boat that’s integral to Inuit ways of life. I was delighted to be part of subsist, and by the inclusion of the harpoons and model kayaks from the WAG’s collection.”

Jaimie Isaac, WAG Curator of Indigenous and Contemporary Art, took it one step further by proposing to reproduce Mark’s painting on a large vinyl panel as an evocation of an Internet meme.

In the show, the United Nation’s Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People is displayed to highlight the right of Indigenous people to receive economic gain from their hunt. The show sheds light on how detrimental the international restrictions on the trade of seal products is to Inuit, and on the controversy of the seal hunt.

In a second work by Mark, Seal Skin Neck Pillow, the artist uses seal fur; the main material of his Inuit ancestors reimagined into a contemporary travel object that can cross international borders, as a response to the debate of international trade of seal skin products.

“As someone with Indigenous heritage, seal hunting is part of Inuit culture and ancestry,” Mark says. “If we are to have respect for Indigenous cultural practices, how does the international state of fur skin trading and its restrictions, respond to our culture, while under pressure from animal rights activists. There must be a more widely acknowledged global respect for our practices with seal skin.”

Mark hopes to challenge people to consider a broader, more holistic view where respect and protection of Indigenous practices exists with animal rights activism and changing ecosystems. “It’s not a binary. It’s not ‘yes or no’. There needs to be space for keeping the entire ecosystem in mind. The Indigenous holistic point of view can be a big part of that.”

No matter your view on the seal hunt, subsist gets us talking through the incredible power of art. This show is just one example of the diverse perspectives that come to light at the WAG.


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