Nunavut artists to produce 40,000 soapstone inuksuit for sale in Vancouver in 2010

Carvers cash in on Winter Olympics


Nunavut's bid to cash in on the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics will be guided by 40,000 inuksuit made by artists from across the territory.

On July 9, Nunavummiut got their first look at the soapstone inuksuit that will be marketed to tourists attending the Olympics.

"There were some concerns about using Inuit art," acknowledged Paul Okalik, the premier, at the Nunavut Day unveiling. "At the same time we want to show our culture to the world."

Okalik was flanked at the unveiling by Darren Nichol of the NDC and Dennis Kim from the Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee, also known as VANOC.

Kim said VANOC is striving for the most participation ever by indigenous people in an Olympic games. The marketing deal with Nunavut puts an emphasis on "original and authentic art," Kim said.

Nichol said the deal will "elevate" the profile of Inuit artists. The NDC views the Olympic deal as way to promote its other wares around the world.

"The sale of the inuksuit will help us introduce all of our Inuit art – fine art prints, sculptures, textiles and more – to a world-wide market," said Louie Kamookak, NDC's chairman, in a news release.

The Nunavut Development Corporation will buy the 40,000 inuksuit from Nunavut carvers.

Each carving will come individually packaged with a biography of the carver and information about the history of the inuksuk. It's expected that as many as 1,200 carvers from 14 communities will be involved.

Small inuksuit, roughly seven to ten centimetres tall, carry a suggested retail price of $75, while larger carvings, up to 25 centimetres tall, would sell for around $150.

Carvers will get about 25 per cent of the retail price, close to $20 per small carving and $30 per big one.

The government estimates the Olympic deal will create $1 million in economic spinoffs for Nunavut.

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