Colourful Birds Item Number: Na932 from the MOA: University of British Columbia


Print depicting a front-facing smiling human figure in Inuit dress flancked by four birds: the two upper birds are brown, grey, green and black and are turned outwards with their heads facing inwards. The two bottom birds are facing inwards and have orange, brown, yellow and black plumage. The name of the printmaker is printed in Inuit syllabics along with the Cape Dorset stylized red igloo seal in the lower left-hand corner. Below the image is written, "Colourful Birds lithograph 33/50 Dorset 1979 Egyvudluk," and the name of the artist is written in Inuit syllabics. The Canadian Eskimo Arts Council and Cape Dorset Cooperative blind embossed stamp is in the lower right-hand corner.

History Of Use

Contemporary Inuit prints were first produced at Cape Dorset in 1957. Although precursors to printmaking can be seen in women's skin applique work and in men's incising of ivory, stone and bone, the impetus for printmaking was as a commercial venture. This venture was established jointly by Inuit artists and John Houston, the civil administrator for Cape Dorset. Other Inuit communities quickly followed the commercial success of Cape Dorset's West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative. Printmaking developed as a communal activity following a Japanese, rather than a Western, model of serigraph production. Each year the cooperatives produce a series of limited edition prints which are sold in the retail art market. In 1965, the Canadian Eskimo Arts Council was established from the Canadian Eskimo Art Committee to ensure high standards were maintained. Printmaking, along with stone carving, provide cash income for communities which have undergone rapid and significant change, during the late 20th century, from traditional hunting based societies to settled communities dependent on consumer goods. The prevalent images depicted in Inuit art are of traditional life, arctic animals and mythology. Recently, contemporary subjects have been depicted by a minority of artists.

Cultural Context

contemporary art