Listening for Sedna: contemporary Inuit art and climate

Of the hundreds of ArtCOP21 events, only a handful featured works by or involving Inuit artists. Inuit works included a project by conceptual artist Mel Chin entitled The Arctic is Paris (2015), which featured Greenlandic Inuit hunters Jens Danielsen and Mamarut Kristiansen driving a dogsled through the Paris streets, and a play called Sila (2015) by Chantal Bilodeau featuring poetry by Taqralik Partridge. 

In the Arctic, the effects of climate change (thinning ice, changes in polar bear behaviour due to depletion of their natural prey, shifts in wind and unpredictable weather) are not distant, removed, conceptual. They are felt, and they are changing how Inuit live.

This is the thrust of Zacharias Kunuk and Ian Mauro’s film, Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change (2010), the first Inuktitut-language film to address global warming and integrate traditional Inuit knowledge into the discourse of environmentalism.

In Sedna Speaks (2011), Tuckatuck depicts the sea goddess emerging atop an ice floe. From one side, the contours of the figure carefully trace the silhouette of a narwhal. From the other, Sedna’s long locks of dark hair consolidate to form the narwhal’s flippers, its body opening to reveal the shapeshifting goddess’s head and torso—pendulous breasts and a face whose mouth is open in speech or song. There’s a sense of urgency to Tuckatuck’s carving, as if Sedna’s voice could deliver a warning just in time.

Listening for Sedna: contemporary Inuit art and climate

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