Pond Inlet artist creates Pokémon characters from Inuit legends

Jamesie Itulu, 27, has created a world of ‘Fakemon’ based on his culture and community

Jamesie Itulu has developed a world of Pokémon-style characters based on Nunavut and Inuit culture. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Updated on Tuesday, May 24 at 4:45 p.m.

A Pond Inlet artist has created characters based on a popular anime franchise, his community and Inuit legends and culture.

Jamesie Itulu, 27, has developed Pokémon-like characters that represent ringed seals, the sea goddess Sedna, shamans, face tattoos and many other stories, figures and animals from Inuit culture.

He calls them Fakemon.

“I decided to just keep going to make more and have my own fake region based on Nunavut and its culture,” Itulu said.

He calls it the Kajana Region, based on the Inuktitut word “kajjana,” which means “stunning” in English.

Pokémon is a video and trading card game, and animated movie and TV show franchise with millions of followers worldwide. It’s about people who catch and train creatures to battle in arenas. The first iteration of the TV show began in 1997 in Japan.

Itulu taught himself to draw from books when he was a child, then learned from online courses and videos.

His skills landed him a job with SmartICE, a sea ice-monitoring company, where he designed graphics for information posters. He now works full-time as an illustrator for Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.

In 2019, he went to Nunavut Sivuniksavut, the college in Ottawa for Inuit, and learned about Inuit history and legends. A year later, he got an iPad and began morphing his culture with his interest in the popular anime franchise.

“One day I was here … and just started drawing,” Itulu said.

Pokemon has fans worldwide, and there are others who, like him, draw their own Fakemon.

For Itulu, it started in 2020 with the idea of drawing a snowy owl, which ended up becoming his first Fakemon character. His most recent creations are Kelpin and its evolved form, Kaluweed.

  • Itulu drew this character, Opris, based on Sedna, the sea goddess. (Image by Jamesie Itulu)

Kelpin is short for kelp and gulpin, which is a little fish caught around Pond Inlet. It can evolve into Kaluweed, which is based on Qallupiluk, a human-like creature that lurks beneath sea ice.

“Sometimes the Qallupiluk will snatch people that play around the floating ice around the shore,” Itulu said.

Another character is based on a story about an over-confident, boastful child playing string games. She gets a visit from a “creature that uses his intestines as strings to play” and challenges the child to a game.

Itulu made a character called Ayadowel to represent that creature.

“If it wins, it will take her away forever,” he said.

There’s a trio of Fakemon he made called Eeyee, short for Ijiga; Aga, short for Againak; and Maha, short for Mahaha.

Itulu drew a spirit rising from a bone to represent Ijiga. He said it symbolizes tired animal bones on the tundra that people will sometimes flip to its other side to cure the bones’ restlessness.

Againak is a creature or a severed foot of a raven that crawls around and scares people, he said, adding that it used to be told to children as a bedtime story.

Finally, Mahaha is a “long-fingered boogeyman that tickles you to death.”

He’s created more than a dozen Pokémon and says he’s just doing it for fun. Itulu’s work is online at deviantart.com/cyanjames2819.

Correction: This article has been updated from a previous version to correct Jamesie Itulu’s employment status.

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(15) Comments:

  1. Posted by Umingmak on

    These are awesome. He should send these designs off to Nintendo!

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  2. Posted by Query to the crowd on

    Serious question, is this appropriation? If not why not, and if so does it matter or not?

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    • Posted by Serious Answer on

      Yes, it is absolutely appropriation.

      I hope that he is sending a portion of his profits to the creators of Pokemon, and that he is giving full artistic acknowledgement.

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      • Posted by Obvious common sense reply. on

        You realize people all over the world create fake money for fun, it isn’t just home right? The article actually states that he just makes them for fun, he’s not getting paid for it. Good on him, I hope he makes even more.

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        • Posted by Autocorrect on

          Fake money and home = fakemon and him.

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          • Posted by Jay Arnakak on

            jealous much?

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            • Posted by oh ima on

              People just can’t be happy for others

    • Posted by replying on

      There is a difference when it comes to a fan creating things for fun purposes only, it is called ‘fan art’. This does not really count as appropriation.

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      • Posted by Complex Issue? on

        Okay, so what is the fundamental difference in your opinion?

        • Posted by anon on

          …because the artist is Inuk and is making up his own versions of pokemon based on his culture’s myths and legends? He’s not appropriating anything.

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          • Posted by The Reality on

            Umm, his being Inuk is completely meaningless, minority groups can appropriate too. Look at the controversy a few years ago with the Inuk artist appropriating from First Nation’s songs.

            Simple fact, he appropriated characters from another culture for his creation and he needs to acknowledge that and give credit.

            The bigger concern is if Nintendo chooses to enforce their copyright. Unlikely in the case of fanart, but it doesn’t diminish the appropriation.

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      • Posted by A Chance for This Young Man to Learn About His Misbehaviour on

        Sure does, cultural appropriation is cultural appropriation.

        This news outlet tells us that there is training in the near future for Nunavut artists. I hope that this highly talented young man attends and learns about his inappropriate behaviour. No doubt it wasn’t intentional, but that is not the age we live in anymore, it is only about outcomes.

        He appropriated the the cultural icons of another without attribution. He is a cultural appropriator, however unintentional and well-meaning.

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    • Posted by replying on

      Three things for those who are neglecting to understand: fan bases, and fan FICTION and FAN ART. It is not ‘cultural appropriation’ at all with a series as widely popular as Pokemon. It is very common for fans of a series to have fun and create their own ideas within the universe. also note the word FICTION, this stuff that he made is not real and not canon, and plus it’s made for enjoyment only, enough said. This man is a wonderful individual and he deserves some love since he clearly loves the craft. Keep drawing!

  3. Posted by Jay Arnakak on

    ajunngit!!!!

  4. Posted by Quietus on

    In my opinion it is appropriation, it’s also completely fine. I’m glad to see this discussion happening though, it highlights the absurdity of the topic.

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