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Author of Curatorial Essays: Augatnaaq Eccles

The exhibit you are about to visit explores the life of the influential Inuk figure Idlout. We invite viewers to come along with us through this exhibition as we travel through moments of Idlout’s life across the beautiful landscapes of Aulatsiivik and Greenland, guided through concepts of Inuit knowledge and values that can be identified within each theme.

This exhibition is organized according to the Inuit knowledge system known as Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ). This curatorial framework was first developed by Dr. Heather Igloliorte in her essay “Curating Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: Inuit Knowledge in the Qallunaat Art Museum.” In her essay Dr. Igloliorte outlines how Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit can be used to deepen our understanding of Inuit art. IQ provides us with a unique lens to look at these photographs as IQ shapes the Inuit worldview and it would have shaped the way Idlout, and other Inuit would have seen and interacted with the world around them. We chose to organize this exhibition according to this framework because we found that when we looked at Idlout’s photographs, Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit principles could be identified within each image.

Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit is comprised of eight guiding principles which apply to different aspects of life.

These principles are:

  • Inuuqatigiitsiarniq: Respecting others, relationships and caring for people.
  • Tunnganarniq: Fostering good spirits by being open, welcoming and inclusive.
  • Pijittirniq: Serving and providing for family and/or community.
  • Aajiiqatigiingniq: Decision making through discussion and consensus.
  • Pilimmaksarniq/ Pijariuqsarniq: Development of skills through observation, mentoring, practice, and effort.
  • Qanuqtuurniq: Being innovative and resourceful.
  • Piliriqatigiinniq/ Ikajuqtigiinniq: Working together for a common cause.
  • Avatittinnik Kamatsiarniq: Respect and care for the land, animals and the environment.



IQ is described in many ways but can be understood to be a culmination of wisdom passed down from generation to generation. Jaypeetee Arnakuk defines IQ as “a means of rationalizing thought and action, a means of organizing tasks and resources, a means of organizing family and society into coherent wholes” (Jaypeetee Arnakuk quoted in Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit the Role of Indigenous Knowledge in Supporting Wellness in Inuit Communities in Nunavut, 2010.) The late Elder Mariano Aupilaarjuk described the foundation of IQ, saying, “[IQ] is based on the truths of Inuit culture and the desire to live in harmony. Living in harmony like that we can expect a better world to surround us” (Mariano Aupilaarjuk quoted in Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit the Role of Indigenous Knowledge in Supporting Wellness in Inuit Communities in Nunavut, 2010.). Keeping the words of Inuit Elders in mind, the themes in this exhibition and the corresponding essays explore the critical role that Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit has played in Inuit communities in the past, present, and in preparation for the future.

Joseph Idlout’s photographs presented in this exhibition offer viewers a unique glimpse into the transformative period of the 1950s through the eyes of a skilled hunter, leader, and Inuk. Idlout’s appearance in the 1952 NFB film Land of the Long Day propelled him into the spotlight, making him one of the most recognizable Inuit of his time. At one point, a photograph of Idlout and his family appeared on the former Canadian two-dollar bill. In his camp Aulatsiivik, Idlout was known as a great hunter and leader. While Idlout is well known for his performance in front of the camera, his own work behind the camera as a skilled photographer remains lesser known. Between 1951 to 1958, Joseph Idlout shot over 300 photographs in the northern Qikiqtaaluk Region near Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik), as well as dozens more during a tour of Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat) in 1958.  

The 1950s marked a period of rapid change in Inuit Nunangat as the Canadian Government gained interest in the lives of Inuit and sought to reinforce Canadian sovereignty in the North amidst the Cold War. As the contact between Qallunaat and Inuit increased during this period, Inuit navigated changes to their lives and culture that came with new technology, forced relocations, and pressures to adapt to southern ways. As more Qallunaat travelled to Inuit communities, a southern audience grew interested in the lives of the Arctic’s ‘mysterious’ inhabitants. Narratives and stories about Inuit were shared through Canadian radio, film, and other forms of media; often through the lens of Qallunaat visitors and their perceptions of Inuit and Inuit culture. For example, photographs of Inuit from this period are often taken by Qallunaat visitors who posed Inuit subjects in front of their cameras in positions influenced by their southern perceptions of Inuit and Inuit life. Images which present Inuit through a colonial gaze are typical of photographs from this time period.

Idlout’s photographs in this exhibition offer us a unique and exciting contrast to southern photographs, offering viewers a glimpse into Inuit life during the 1950s with pictures taken of the nuna, camp life, and camp members and guests through the eyes of an Inuk. Idlout’s photographs in this exhibition showcase camp members’ performing for Idlout’s camera and presenting Inuit culture and themselves as they wanted to be portrayed. The title of this exhibition, ‘Ajjiliurlagit,’ which means “let me take your picture,” was chosen as it is a phrase that we imagine Idlout used often as he walked around with his camera.