Ulayok Lucy Kaviok., Beaded amautik, 1970s.

Bessie Iquginnaq., Man and Woman with Child, 1985.

Annuraat: Inuit Clothing in Art

Please note that this exhibit has been held over for an additional week until Sunday, October 16.

Inuit women rank among the most innovative and skilled craftspeople in the world, and this exhibition shows why. The highlight is a display of three stunning beaded amautiit that have recently been donated to the Gallery.

One of the most unique clothing items associated with Inuit culture is the women’s parka, known as the amautik. It takes its name from the carrying pouch, or amaut, located in the back of the parka and designed to carry a baby. The broad shoulders of the amautik permit an infant carried in the pouch to be slipped over the mother's shoulder to the breast while still protected under the parka. Women's parkas in the Canadian Arctic were also identified by a short apron flap, called a kiniq. Despite differences in the form and appearance of women's parkas in the Eastern, Central, and Western Canadian Arctic, the significant features—the kiniq and the amaut—were universal elements.

One of the most spectacular features of Inuit clothing from the Kivalliq region of the Central Arctic is the beadwork used to decorate parkas that were worn on special occasions. Beads had been available occasionally to Inuit trading at Fort Churchill as early as 1719, but they weren’t readily available until the 1920s. The beads were highly valued, as indicated by the eastern Arctic word sapangat or ‘precious stones’. As beads were acquired, they were sewn to stroud or duffle panels which were then applied to garments which would be decorated with a combination of newly beaded and old beaded panels. These panels would be removed from old clothing and passed down from one generation to the next. Other materials such as metal coins and caribou teeth were also used in parka decoration and can be seen on the three amautiit in the exhibition and on an intensely beaded miniature amautik on a doll by Eugenie Tautoonie Kabluitok.

Until the early part of the 20th century, the style of Inuit clothing was determined by region, and these regional variations in skin clothing styles reflect a wide variety of influences. Modern day evolution in clothing styles and materials has taken place as a result of outside influence and increased opportunities for travel among Inuit. Today the use of skin clothing has waned and the Inuit parka is most often made of imported duffel and covered with an outer shell of cotton drill or nylon. However, traditional and regional styles are still a significant part of Inuit culture and are represented in contemporary Inuit art.

This becomes evident in comparing various artworks included in this exhibition. Dolls, sculptures, and graphics from communities throughout the North all reveal both traditional styles as well as more recent influences.


Related Programs & Events

Past Programs & Events

  • Art for Lunch - Curator's Tour

    Darlene Wight, Curator of Inuit Art, discusses amautiit, the beautifully beaded Inuit women's parkas.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011 from 12:10pm to 1pm

  • World of Belonging

    A special day of family activities celebrating Canadian indigenous cultures through music and art-making.

    Sunday, August 21, 2011 from 11am to 5pm

  • Talk - Inuit Clothing in Art

    U of M professors Jill Oakes and Rick Riewe stop by Art for Lunch to share the stories behind the stunning amautiit they recently donated to the WAG.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011 from 12:10pm to 1pm


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