Nunannguaq: In the Likeness of the Earth

At the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, north of Toronto, until January 17, 2010, an exhibition of Cape Dorset art: Nunannguaq: In the Likeness of the Earth:

In Inuktitut, the word Nunannguaq translates into “in the likeness of the earth,” which refers to a complex system used (like a map) to record ancient pathways. While travelling across the vast northern territories, the Inuit were guided by maps imprinted in the community’s collective memory rather than on skin or ivory. By using this type of ephemeral mapping, all travellers were encouraged to actively participate in the setting of directions and, in consequence, developed highly sophisticated skills to observe and instantly interpret the land. This ability to swiftly memorize visual forms strongly influenced the works of Inuit artists and was noted by several European explorers who sought out Inuit assistance in their mapping efforts. The historical Inuit maps displayed in Nunannguaq: In the Likeness of the Earth provides an important visual context to the early works of Cape Dorset artists.

The Toronto Star has more:

Ideas about objectivity — “the western approach to map making,” according to Anna Stanisz, the McMichael curator for “Nunannguaq” — are suspect when it comes to understanding Inuit mapping.
An Inuit map may “be about the metaphysical knowledge of a place, and not just the physical knowledge,” Stanisz continues. “With the changing nature of the snow texture, with only wind direction as an indicator, the true distance between one place and another has to be adjusted from day to day.”

Previous posts about Inuit mapping and navigation: Inuit Routefinding and Oral Tradition; Inuit Tactile Maps; Driftwood Map.