have been mythologized for possessing innumerable words for snow.
But if that is the only fact you know about their lives, culture
and their vast array of talents you will misunderstand and underestimate
this incredible race of people. The death of the great artist
Ashevak has brought the lives and the work of the Inuit back
into the public consciousness.
She was an
artist who touched the lives of millions with her talent and gained
worldwide recognition for the brilliance of her work and at the
age of 85, Ashevak was widely believed to be the last living link
to the tradition of printmaking in Inuit culture. She lived in
peace and tranquillity on Cape Dorset, a community set in picturesque
hills in the south west of Baffin Island and that has been inhabited
for more than 1,000 years. It is a community with an incredible
reputation for Inuit Art, stone carvings and especially Ashevaks
specialty of printmaking. You can view their work at the West
Baffin Eskimo Cooperative, where a number of eye-catching
pieces of work are displayed.
Can I Travel to That Part of the World?
vistas of the fabled Northwest
Passage have long since been a draw for travellers and adventurers
from all over the world. Clear turquoise seas and harsh landscapes
catch the eye and lift the soul, even in temperatures that test
even the hardiest of tourists.
A trip to Baffin Island is a vacation like no other. Those of
you who would rather relax with a cold cocktail, a warm bath and
the rest of lifes little luxuries, need not read. This is
a holiday of exploration and realisation. A trip that will change
your life, but not the colour of back and shoulders. Companies
such as Adventure Canada take you to the heart of communities
just like the one Ashevak made famous. Travellers are taken around
the waters of the region on a boat but the days include long hikes,
invigorating lectures or lessons in Inuktitut.
What Else Will I Need to Think About?
Once you have
made the commitment, both financially and emotionally, to go on
this trip you need to start thinking with your head, as well as
dreaming with your heart. You should make sure you take adequate
precautions because of the unique nature of the adventure
and the special conditions of this part of the world. This will
protect you if your trip is cancelled or interrupted and spare
you further disappointment if for any reason your operator goes
out of business. If you are hiking, going on boat trips and roughing
out in the plummeting temperatures you will need to be
protected against every eventuality. Holidays such as this
one have the potential to be incredibly special and memorable
for all the right reasons and with that in mind it is even more
important to make sure you are as well protected as possible should
anything go against you.
What Can I Expect to See?
As well as
a unique insight into the Inuit culture and their incredible artistic
talents, a trip to the land these people call home will give you
a chance to see how much the Arctic climate has changed over the
past 20 years or so. The waters in the area are warming at an
alarming rate, Baffin
Island is getting warmer and warmer and yet that will not
stop you seeing Polar bears, arctic hares and foxes on the ground,
as well as the occasional whale and walrus slinking through the
island's icy waters. The region is littered with stunning lakes,
which increase in number year on year.
What Is the History of the Area?
Baffin Island was an ancient trading post dating back to first millennium. Situated between Greenland and the north coast of Canada, it is remote and considered one of the world’s most inhospitable areas in the world. Historians rarely agree on these things, but many believe this Inuit haven may have originally had a role as a staging post in the very first trading routes between Europe and North America. Others claim the Vikings interacted with the natives dating back to 500BC. There is even evidence that skills in art and craft were traded between the Vikings and the Inuit, helping the latter to forge their skills which last to this very day.
It All Sounds a Bit Daunting – Should I Go?
This is, quite
simply, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, littered with moments
you will never forget. It will be cold and at times you will feel
tired, but the opportunity to explore one of the world’s most
remote cultures and learn about the incredible artistic skills
of the Inuit is impossible to miss. Most travel companies that
operate in the area work closely with local Inuit communities
and are welcomed by the people there when they stop. Elders of
the community will even answer your (translated) questions about
daily life on the Island and travellers will be presented with
opportunities to make prints, to paint and to create your very
own piece of Inuit history. This may not be an area that is here
forever, as climate change continues to cause terrible damage
but the incredible and desolate beauty, coupled with the warmth
of the Inuit make it one of the most humbling experiences open
to any traveller in the world. Just go.