Silver qulliq Chrétien’s parting gift


When Prime Minister Jean Chrétien left office at the end of January, he took with him a unique memory of his many trips to the North.

Among his many farewell gifts was a sterling silver qulliq designed and made by Nunavut Arctic College student artists and senior instructor Beth Biggs.

The elaborate qulliq, called Sinatumavut (our dreams), was commissioned as a gift from Governor General Adrienne Clarkson to Chrétien.

“It’s a really rare opportunity to receive such a prestigious commission,” Biggs said.

However, Clarkson is a regular customer of the NAC’s fine arts and crafts program. She commissioned a similar gift for Queen Elizabeth to commemorate her visit to Iqaluit in 2002, and every year she has ordered serving spoons for use at the official Rideau Hall residence.

Work on the qulliq for Chrétien was completed in record time, said Biggs, because the former PM accelerated his departure from office.

The inside of the qulliq is decorated by Pootoogook Qiatsak’s image. It shows a man holding up the earth, with an Arctic char and a wolf against a backdrop of the northern lights.

Okpik Pitseolak carved six bird-men figures on the base of the piece.

Serapio Ittusardjuat’s “kissing walruses” figures are on the bottom of the dish.

The fish tail handles by Therese Ukaliannuk are intended as a reminder of the importance of fishing in the North.

Silversmith Biggs was responsible for the basic design and construction of the piece. It bears the hallmark of NAC as well as that of the individual artists who designed the images.

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