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How the Arctic Became White: Qallunaat Misrepresentation of the Arctic Landscape - Chris Gismondi

Part of:
9:00 AM, Friday 4 Oct 2019 (30 minutes)
My SSHRC funded Masters thesis in Art History under Dr. Heather Igloliorte analyzes the historic visual culture of Arctic exploration. I was curious about the misrepresentation of the tundra as snowy and desolate when in reality many explorers were also collecting botanical specimens for Imperial scrutiny. Tied to environmental art history, I saw this omission as a deliberate tactic linked to white-male supremacy in colonial enterprise and Western-Qallunaat technological superiority. Despite, the well documented fact that explorers relied on Indigenous peoples embodied knowledge like hunting, diet, and navigation, as well as Inuit material culture like dogsleds, snowshoes, bone snow googles, and seal skin boots. Not only was this trend found in geographic explorers, but men of industry like the Aberdeen Arctic Company whalers who were exploiting the sea and further represented the land as fruitless to justify their exploitation of the ecology. It was not simply that the Northwest Passage was always conceived of as a gateway to somewhere more important, but understanding how explorers perceived the Arctic helps us comprehend perceptions of it today. Inuit artists are of course rebuking this representation made by outsiders in print, drawing, sculpture, video, grass basket weaving, and beading Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit on botany is lost and plays a large role in contemporary Inuit art.