A huge territory of mostly tiny communities, Nunavut is composed of hundreds of unique local cultures, local customs and traditions. Each community creates an artistic expression that is as unique as the stories that form its oral history, and the families that anchor it.
Located on a small island on the western arm of Baffin Island, about 400 km west of Iqaluit, the hamlet of Cape Dorset is just such a community. For centuries, Cape Dorset, known to the Inuit as Kinngait, or “High Mountain”, was a gathering place for the Inuit. As time went by, many people in the area were drawn toward the creation of art as a way of capturing the events of their lives.
In the 1950’s, the Inuit in Cape Dorset Inuit became drawn to drawing, stone carving and printmaking and these art forms became the expression—and the identity—of the community.
Over the past sixty years, the artists of this community and this facility have proven themselves on the world stage, and the flow of the art to hungry collectors around the world continues unabated, the community of Cape Dorset stands at a critical threshold.
Today, the community of about 1,000 is an active, busy, and remarkably independent town known as the “Hamlet of Cape Dorset.” The town boasts health care facilities, day care, primary and secondary schools, a sports complex, a very busy Co-op store, two hotels, and most of the amenities any small northern town needs to survive, from snowmobile repair shops to a local radio station. Cape Dorset is accessible by boat and by air, with a busy local airport served by both private and major commercial northern airlines.
But it’s the art that drives the local economy, and it’s the art and artists, sculptors and printmakers that attract increasing numbers of tourists who come by plane or off cruise ships each summer. Cultural tourism has now become an important new element of the community’s economy, as people from Europe, America, China and Japan discover the unique art and culture of Cape Dorset.
The creation of the Kenojuak Cultural Centre and Print Shop will be an important destination for these tourists, and will serve as a year-round focal point for community activities of all kinds.