Arctic college students strike gold

A group of seven display golden works of art



Several Nunavummiut are a little bit richer – in talent and in gold – since they successfully completed the goldsmith program at Arctic College in Iqaluit.

Pootoogook Qiatsuk of Cape Dorset, Okpik Pitseolak of Kimmirut, Therese Ukaliannuk of Igloolik, Pierre Koomuk of Arviat, Serapio Ittusardjuat of Igloolik, and Mosha Arnatsiaq, also of Igloolik, are showing their golden works at Nunavut’s legislative assembly building.

Smooth, glistening images of drum dancers, dogsled teams, beluga whales, birds and harpoon heads lie under glass, tantalizing the eager spender.

A small group of onlookers have gathered for the official opening, after catching a brief glimpse of the shiny objects before the speeches began.

Beth Biggs, senior instructor of fine arts and crafts, expressed her excitement over the college’s first goldsmith program, and challenged Tiffany’s, the upscale American fine accessories shop, to carry a line of her students’ work.

“Gold has been used by humans for the last 7,000 years, and now Inuit images have been created permanently in gold,” Biggs said.

The artists range in age from 26 to 63. Their backgrounds tell different stories, yet their jewelry displays a common love of beauty.

Arnatsiaq is the youngest. He first became interested in art while doing lino cuts and motion drawings in school. At 10, he also began helping his father, Maurice Arnatsiaq, sand ivory carvings.

Ukaliannuk, 63, has nine children, 21 grandchildren and several great-grand children. She began carving soapstone and ivory, beadwork and sewing caribou skins long before she took her first jewelry and metalwork course in Igloolik in 1992.

At the age of eight, Ittusardjuat, now 58, began making uqsiit and sannirujait out of ivory and caribou antler for dog team users.

Pitseolak has been carving various kinds of stone since 1960. She believes that it is important that legends be told, and she started telling them when she was a little girl, helping to polish her father’s carvings.

Qiatsuk was also drawn in by his father’s work. For Qiatsuk, who studied printmaking for eight years at the West Baffin Eskimo Co-op in Cape Dorset, ancient masks are an inspiration, because they reflect the Inuit tradition of tattooing one’s face and body parts.

Koomuk prefers the imagery of animals to ancient masks, because animals are the only source of food when out hunting. With his lively animal images, he fashions jewelry, bowls and containers.

The gold used by the seven artist came from Nunavut’s Lupin mine. The pieces will be on display until Aug. 6.

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