Rebecca Crofts Gallery Animator

Annie Pootoogook’s Man Talking on CB Radio

Annie Pootoogook (1969-2016) was a prolific artist well known for her distinctive style and approach to drawing which addresses themes of contemporary Inuit life. Born in Kinnigait (Cape Dorset), Canada, Pootoogook came from a family of artists; she is the daughter of Napatchie and Eegyvudluk Pootoogook, and the granddaughter of renowned artist Pitseolak Ashoona. Pootoogook was influenced by her mother’s graphics and the detailed drawings and prints of her uncle, Kananginak Pootoogook.

Kinngait, Nunavut (Cape Dorset) also known as “Sikusillaq’ in Inuktitut, refers to the area of nearby seawater which remains ice-free all winter. It has justifiably been called the most artistic community in Canada, with about 22% of its labour force employed in the visual arts. Founded in 1959, Kinngait Studio houses the co-op’s graphic arts program, which produces a highly acclaimed print collection each year. Cape Dorset is fondly known locally as the true ‘Capital of Inuit Art.’

Before printmaking was introduced to the Inuit of Cape Dorset, artists there were sculpting using local stone. In 1970 Cape Dorset artists received their first Lithographic press and Nova Scotia artist Wallace Brannen worked in the community starting in 1974 to teach Lithographic techniques. The theme of a strong connection between Inuit and the natural world is powerfully described in the work of Cape Dorset artists and printmakers. Frequent subject matter in Inuit prints are the land, animals and the ocean. In the early 2000s, a new group of Cape Dorset artists began to create increasingly daring, reflective and eloquent drawings which have re-defined subject matter in contemporary Inuit art by focusing on scenes of everyday life in the present. These artists presented visions of their Inuit heritage (material, physical, cultural traditions, stories, geographies) while also working outside of the norms that southerners have come to expect from Inuit art.

Annie Pootoogook is known as a major catalyst for the shift in subject matter and interest for the new generation of artists living and working in Cape Dorset. It is not only her choice of subject matter, but also the medium (drawing) which shows her commitment to this changing tide. While older generations created drawings which were chosen and then drafted into lithographic prints to be reproduced and sold to a Southern market, the medium of drawing (not to be reproduced) is both a much more immediate connection to the artist’s hand as well as a break in the traditional and often exploitative print market between Inuit artists and Southern markets.

Pootoogook’s drawing titled Man Talking on CB Radio (2003-2004) combines many of these new stylistic aspects and explores her personal experience as a woman living and working in the changing face of the North. In this drawing, we see a family depicted inside of a prefabricated home in Cape Dorset. As is the reality in contemporary Inuit north, this family is shown wearing a mixture of traditional Inuit clothing and non-traditional clothing. The woman on the left is shown in amauti, a traditional parka with a built-in baby pouch against their mother’s back and the man is shown seated speaking into a CB radio wears a contemporaneous puffer-style parka and corduroy jeans.

This drawing illustrates the mundanity of everyday life in the North while also paying great attention to detail. Pootoogook has included every screw in the small table that the CB radio sits on, as well as the sparsely decorated walls of the house, a clock, a small flower taped to the wall and a figure in the kitchen opening the refrigerator. CB radios (or citizens band radio) are used as a common short-distance communication between individuals as many residents in the North may have limited or no access to broadband or telephones. Pootoogook’s work tells stories of lived experience, combining elements of contemporary Inuit life and culture with influences derived from southern industrial society.

Pootoogook presents a view of the North that was not depicted in the prints and drawings by previous generations of Cape Dorset artists. Man Talking on CB Radio (2003-2004) serves to challenge Southern ideas of what contemporary life is like in the North and invites us into a world which broadens our conversations about the ways in which Inuit culture is represented in Canada and abroad.

Image Credit: 

Annie Pootoogook

Man Talking on CB Radio (2003-2004)
wax pastel and ink on Ragston paper
45.1 x 66.5
Purchased with funds made available from the Jane Shaw Law Endowment Fund, 2007 2007.111