Inuit Art of Canada

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Authentic Inuit Art

Inuits have been making art for centuries, and the 19th century saw a trade in dolls, toys, and animal carvings develop between Inuits and visiting whalers, sailors and explorers. In 1945, in response to the interest Inuit art was attracting, the Canadian government set up arts and crafts centres as a way to encourage and integrate Inuit into Canada�s cash economy. Since then the industry has flourished, and Inuit art reaches new heights of skill and creativity. But there is a burgeoning black market in imitation Inuit art. These counterfeit works are made of inferior material and are likely mass-produced. It is important to ensure that the art you purchase is from a reputable and reliable source.

Sustainability For The Inuit People and Culture

Inuit history is that of a nomadic people, moving between summer camps of animal skin tents and winter camps of igloos, hunting and fishing wherever the season dictated. After World War II and travel inventions that made the Artic suddenly accessible, permanent settlements were created and many Inuit were forced to abandon their nomadic lifestyle and also settle. But this change hasn�t been easy. Inuit and other First Nations communities often live in isolation and extreme poverty. They also suffered discrimination and institutional abuse. From the 1870s until the last school closed in 1996, over 150,000 First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Children were placed in residential schools, frequently without parental consent, forbidden to speak their own language or practice their own culture, and in some cases suffered terrible abuse. Residential schools had devastating effect on the mental health of the children and its legacy can be seen in the social problems Inuit still face today. Drug and alcohol abuse are prevalent in the Inuit community, its youth at a higher risk of becoming involved in substance abuse. Buying genuine Inuit art means that money is pumped back into the community, ending the cycle of poverty and funding social schemes and rehabilitation opportunities. Inuit art has been a way to restore the culture and identity that was almost lost. By purchasing genuine Inuit art, you are helping with this process.

The Igloo Tag

There are several ways to make sure the art you are buying is genuine. The first is the �Igloo Tag�. Originals by Inuit artists carry a federal tag displaying an igloo. On these tags, it is stated where and when the art was made, the subject of the piece, and the name of the artist. The design of the Igloo tag has pretty much stayed the same since it was introduced, so look out for marked differences in this familiar image. Some galleries do not keep the tags affixed to the artwork, instead keeping them on file. Make sure you are able to view them before purchasing. You should also ensure that you are given a �Certificate of Authenticity� detailing and illustrating in color that the art you are buying has been certified by the government of Canada as authentic Inuit art. If you are in a tourist shop and come across something that interests, you can check its authenticity with a few tricks. If it is supposed to be stone, it will be heavy and cool to the touch. If you are purchasing a handmade carving, you will not be able to find a shelf full of identical ones, if you do, then it is clearly mass produced from a mould. And lastly, price. Here the pessimists� motto holds a lot of truth, if something is too good to be true, it probably is. If the price is extremely low, then it is probably a fake. Don�t be fooled into thinking fakes are easy to spot. Producing counterfeit goods is big business and has links to organized crime, possibly funding criminal operations that no art lover would want to have a hand in. Always ask for a certificate of authenticity. Sometimes the counterfeiters have worked very hard to produce documents to make the product seem authentic. This is one reason to buy from a gallery or reputable dealer; you don�t want to take the risk of investing in something that may end up being worthless and you want to make sure the money you are spending goes back to the Inuit communities.