Shelley Falconer and Shawna White,
Stones, Bones and Stitches: Storytelling Through Inuit Art
Tundra Books, 2007.
Stories of the Inuit, their struggles, beliefs, joys and sorrows are depicted through their fascinating artwork. Stone carvings, block prints, hand-stitched embroidery and wall hangings, as well as intricate whalebone carvings document a people surviving the most severe conditions in the world. Authors Falconer and White, both curators of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario, present a comprehensive introduction to Inuit Art through representative works that are part of the gallery’s permanent collection.
Six well-known artists’ stories are told through an in-depth examination of their works. For example, Oviloo Tunnillie, growing up near Kinngait (Cape Dorset), began carving soapstone at age 17, and is now a highly noted Inuit woman sculptor. One of her most powerful, emotional pieces, called Woman Quarrying Stone, depicts a woman carver burdened with the stone she is digging for her artwork. The dangerous process of quarrying stone is discussed in detail as are other related notes pertaining to the artist’s subject matter, including quotes from the artist herself.
Included in the book are artists: Joe Talirunili, carver and storyteller; Jessie Oonark, noted for her many drawings and wall hangings; Lukta Qiasuk, skilled carver and master printmaker; David Ruben Piqtoukun, sculptor focussing on lost Inuit traditions; and probably the best known, Kenojuak Ashevak, for her stunning designs and stone-cut prints.
Beautifully presented, this volume contains full-page colour photographs of the original artwork, various small photos depicting the artist at work, life in various Arctic areas, and several postage stamps produced to commemorate the artists’ achievements. As well as a biography of each artist, there are many short paragraphs providing information on the Inuit people in general, their community life, housing, transportation and the tools they used. The rich Inuit culture is shown through the artists’ work, quotes, short mythological stories and notes on place names and language. An informative map is included as a beginning two-page spread. There is also a table of contents, an introduction and a selected bibliography.
This text is highly recommended for an elementary school library collection. Though the reading level is quite sophisticated, grade 4/5 readers, under teacher/parent guidance, should appreciate much of the information, especially the large prints of the artwork, thus learning the Inuit’s story through art.
Thematic Links: Inuit Art; Inuit Life and Culture; Canadian Arctic
Vol. 13, number 1
E - Excellent, enduring, everyone should see it!
G - Good, even great at times, generally useful!
A - Average, all right, has its applications.
P - Problematic, puzzling, poorly presented.