Nunatsiavummi Sananguagusigisimajangit / Nunatsiavut Art History: Continuity, Resilience, and Transformation in Inuit Art

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Igloliorte, Heather Lynette




This dissertation provides a timely and critical assessment of Nunatsiavummiut [Labrador Inuit] visual arts, both historical and contemporary. While encounters with Nunatsiavummiut have been well documented for over four centuries, and a number of excellent studies from archeology, anthropology, ethnohistory and sociology exist, the art historical literature and documentation is scant. Museum collections, exhibitions and scholarly publications on Inuit art and visual culture have been noticeably devoid of Nunatsiavut content. In light of the advances the field of Inuit art has made in a little over half a century, the near-complete absence of Nunatsiavummiut visual culture from exhibitions and collections as well as from art historical texts is highly conspicuous. Yet despite the lack of an enduring arts industry, a cooperative system, institutional support or scholarly interest, the Nunatsiavut Territory continues to produce exceptional artists. This dissertation thus aims to fill a critical gap in Inuit art scholarship by providing an overview of Nunatsiavummiut artistic productions through time and across a variety of practices including sewing, grasswork, carving, and now also drawing, photography and other contemporary arts. Drawing on Visual Culture’s interdisciplinary theoretical toolkit as well as critical Indigenous research methodologies, this thesis provides a social history of Labrador Inuit visual culture spanning over four centuries of production, in order to illuminate how the complex history of contact, trade, cultural imperialism and Inuit resistance strategies have shaped the production of art in the region. It situates Labrador Inuit visual culture within broader discourses of contemporary Inuit art history. This dissertation argues that the production of Inuit art has played an integral role in fostering and safeguarding Inuit cultural knowledge throughout our long history of contact and exchange; that art making demonstrates the continuity and resilience of Nunatsiavummiut culture despite centuries of colonization; and that in this new era of self-governance, the arts hold the potential to assert and secure our unique cultural identity.


Art History




Carleton University

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Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Cultural Mediations

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Theses and Dissertations

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