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Featured Artifact: Seal Skin Art

Artifact Profile: Seal Skin Artwork

sealskin

Artist: Helen Kalvak Elihakvik

Provenance: Holomon Island (Ulukahaktok), NW Territories

Kalvak was born in 1901 on Victoria Island located in the Northwest portion of the Northwest Territories. In her youth she lived a migratory lifestyle with her family; Migrating between camps along the coast in the winter and camps in the interior in the summer. Her father was a well-respected angakug (Shaman) and much of his teachings informed her artworks in her later years. After moving to Holoman Island (Ulukahaktok) she moved into a Co-op which provided her the opportunity to draw. Between 1962 and 1978 she created over 1800 drawings and stencils. The theme in her artworks focus on the transformation between angakug and his/her own animal spirit helpers or guides through illustrations of how people used to dress and live.

The museum received a donation of a sealskin piece in 2008. This piece was made by Kalvak early in her career. This is known because sealskin was experimented on as a medium in 1962 until Northern Affairs, now named Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, sent an ambassador to teach stone cut techniques. Since stone is more abundant in Ulukahaktok, between 1965 and 1976, stone cut became the exclusive technique.

Sources: Inuit Art Foundation Website. This website includes quotes about her from the people that knew her as well as information on select exhibitions and artwork.

Additional Paper Sources and Biographic Information: Canadian Womans Artist History Initiative. 2007.  Kalvak, Helen.

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