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The art of the Inuit tattoo – Nunatsiaq News



Tattoo artist and illustrator Aedan Corey, 23, is one of a growing number of young Inuit who are finding cultural connection and self-expression through traditional Inuit tattooing. (Photo by Madalyn Howitt)

Growing up in Cambridge Bay, Inuk artist Aedan Corey wanted to be a writer and illustrator as early as age 11. 

“When you come from a small town, I think it becomes almost second nature to want to pursue something that helps you express yourself,” Corey said.

But these days, the 23-year-old is not only putting pen to paper, but has taken to needle and ink.

Corey, whose pronouns are they/them, is one of a growing number of young Inuit learning about traditional Inuit tattooing.

The practice was banned for decades due to colonization, but is being rekindled through programs like the Inuit Tattoo Revitalization Project, which travels to Inuit communities to teach the art and history of tattooing.

When the project visited Cambridge Bay, Corey received their first tattoo and was immediately hooked. 

“From then on, it was very much like this awakening. I think a lot of kids in our community have feelings of shame there and not necessarily realizing how important the relationship to our culture is,” Corey said.

Inuit tattoos were traditionally done through either a skin-stitching method, where a needle is used to thread ink under the skin; or a hand-poked technique, where a needle dipped in ink is poked at an angle into the skin, depositing the ink to create lines and patterns.

When Corey moved to Ottawa four years ago, they got their first facial tattoo on their chin from tattooist Zorga Qaunaq.

Corey called the experience “life changing.”

“When I got my first facial tattoo, it was very much like a very public and very open statement that I am enough. This is who I am. I am proud to be this person,” they said. 

So when COVID-19 hit in March 2020, Corey took advantage of lockdown to practise tattooing on themselves with the proper supplies. 

So far Corey has tattooed their own fingers, wrists, arms, forehead, cheeks and temples, and they’ve tattooed about 20 other people in Ottawa and Cambridge Bay. 

The effects of intergenerational trauma and colonization on Indigenous communities makes it very important for Indigenous people to be able to express themselves in different ways, Corey said. 

They see reclaiming Inuit tattooing as one way to help communities heal and reconnect with their traditions, while still letting individuals express themselves. 

Artist and tattooist Aedan Corey, from Cambridge Bay, shows off their traditional Inuit tattoos, many of which they did themselves. Their tattoos represent family and personal milestones, like their forehead tattoo which they got after coming out as non-binary and two-spirit. (Photos by Madalyn Howitt)

“In today’s revitalization process, a lot of our [tattoo] meanings are kind of brought forth from ourselves, because a lot of the knowledge surrounding that can be inaccessible to some, especially if you don’t speak Inuktitut and if you are away from your communities. It can be difficult to find traditional meaning from symbols,” Corey said.  

“So that’s something that I tried to share with other Inuit when I’m tattooing them … it’s OK to find your own meaning within whatever symbols you choose.”

Corey said their own tattoos represent their family and personal accomplishments, like graduating high school and coming out as non-binary and two-spirit. 

“A big tattoo that I did on myself was my forehead tattoo. That was really symbolic for me,” Corey said. 

“I had just kind of gotten out of a bad relationship and was feeling very much in this transitory phase … kind of considering this gender journey that I was going on.

“I think this tattoo was really instrumental in being able to further accept myself.”

Corey said it’s ideal if Inuit are tattooed by other Inuit who share a common understanding of the cultural significance. But, they added, it’s OK for Inuit to get traditional tattoos from non-Inuit tattoo artists if accessibility is an issue.  

“I don’t want it to stop anyone from getting their tattoos. If that’s all you have [available], that’s totally fine as long as you make sure that it’s being done by someone who is respectful of the fact that these are Inuit tattoos specifically,” they said, noting they believe Inuit tattoos on non-Inuit people is a form of cultural appropriation. 

In addition to becoming a tattoo artist, Corey is also one of the newest members of the Nordic Lab, a workspace and creative hub for artists from circumpolar nations housed at Ottawa’s SAW Gallery. 

With support from the Inuit Futures program, which helps Inuit students undertake research in the arts, Corey is working under the mentorship of Nordic Lab director Taqralik Partridge.

Some of their upcoming projects include writing a book of poetry, an exhibition at the Pique art festival June 11 in Ottawa and learning traditional screen printing and block printing at the Nordic Lab.

They also recently led two online panel discussions about Inuit tattoo revitalization and hope to host an Inuit tattooing event later this year. 

“There’s a lot of people who either want to learn or are learning at the moment … honestly, it’s a little bit difficult to count,” Corey said. 

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Humboldt Public School collaborative art project complete –



The Humboldt Public school recently finished an art project that utilized every student in the school and now has a colourful fibre art display on the fence along highway 5. 

The school is a pre-k to grade 8 school and has approximately 330 students.  

The project began when a teacher wanted to do a large scale project with the entire student body. 

Teacher Michelle Lafayette applied for a SK Art grant and began contacting the artist who would help lead the school through the project.  

Lafayette explains how it all got started. 

“Well, when COVID happened we had to rethink how we did everything. I wanted to do a school-wide project that we could do around arts. So, I did a quilting project because I am a quilter. Then the kids made a quilt piece out of construction paper and made a huge collaborative quilt. It was a great project. So, I wanted to do something again this year but I didn’t want to do it all by myself so I searched for grants so that I could hire an artist to come in and do this for us. I knew that Monika had done school projects before and community projects. I had seen the work that she did on Broadway (Saskatoon) when they had construction and she had woven fabric onto the fence. I thought it was amazing and something that we could do here also.”  

Every student regardless of abilities was able to contribute to the project.

The project consisted of many different types of fabric and fibres, from old sheets to yarn, with different patterns and colours, it has a wide range of sizes and textures. 

To begin with, the fabric had to be broken down into small manageable sizes. 

“So, what we did was we got donated sheets and materials and the kids came in and ripped the fabric. They loved it! A little cut and then the sound when they ripped it, and some got really physical and used all their strength and showed me how they could rip it. It was amazing,” said Lafayette. 

The fabric was then wrapped around circular things, hula-hoops, ice cream pail lids, plant trays, and even cut-up corrugated plastic signs. Everything was recycled materials as after it has been out in the weather it will likely be trash.  

The artist Monika Kinner, who is from Saskatoon, was so happy with the results. 

“The end result is what we hoped for, how we got there was completely not what I had expected it was far beyond what I expected. I am really appreciative of my own creativity and ideas because of all the rain we had to completely change what we were doing. That was fun for me, so I have to say I appreciate the opportunity to be so creative and fly by the seat of my pants.” 

The display will likely be up until sometime in October, however with the weather it could change. 

The students involved really enjoyed the time and effort that was put in and now can be proud of their work displayed outside the school. 

SK Art was also impressed by the project and encouraged all schools to bring in artists and allow them to work with students on different projects. 

“Bring artists into schools!” stated SK Art program consultant for Art in Schools Projects, Jody Greenman-Barber.

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Winners announced for BC-wide art, writing contest for Indigenous youth – Trail Daily Times – Trail Times



The winners have been announced in a provincewide children’s art/writing contest where youth were asked what being Indigenous means to them.

In honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day and hosted by Xyólheméylh (Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society) the contest was open to all Indigenous people age five to 24.

The entries were judged by a panel consisting of Xyólheméylh’s board of directors and elders advisory committee. There were three categories – ages five to 10, ages 11 to 14, and ages 15 to 24.

The children and youth expressed their connection to the land, nature, animals, and their families. They also expressed their hopes and dreams as well as their sadness with discrimination and racism.

“Many artists have painted or drawn pictures of wolves howling at a full moon. In my artwork, I have used the dream catcher as my moon because I want the dream catcher to catch and protect all my hopes and dreams of being a person who is known to protect friends, freedom, family, loyalty, and teamwork,” said 10-year-old Emiley of her artwork.

Kyan won first place in the ages 15 to 24 category.

“Stereotypes often take over how First Nations are seen, and when someone looks at you and automatically thinks that what you are isn’t something to be proud of it makes you feel bad no matter how proud you are,” Kyan wrote.

“Thank you to all the children and youth who submitted their heartfelt art. It is truly inspiring to see the talent, creativity and the pride expressed in being Indigenous,” said board president Dr. Wenona Hall.

READ MORE: Fraser Valley writing, art contest open to all Indigenous youth in B.C.


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ARTS AROUND: New art exhibit showcases ‘Women’s Work’ in Port Alberni – Alberni Valley News





A new art exhibit is opening at the Rollin Art Centre, featuring a group of four local female artists.

Sue Thomas, Jillian Mayne, Colleen Clancy and Ann McIvor will display their artwork in an exhibit titled “Women’s Work” that opens on June 21 and runs until July 22. The diversity of the work reflects each woman’s unique creative process and artistic expression.

Join us in the gallery this Saturday, June 25 from 1-3 p.m. for refreshments and an opportunity to meet these incredible and accomplished artists.


The Rollin Art Centre will be holding a summer-inspired art exhibit from July 27 to Aug. 26 and we are inviting all local artists to submit up to three pieces (size depending) that depicts your own rendition of the season of summer.

All mediums are welcome. Application forms are available at the Rollin Art Centre. The fee is $10 per submission. Deadline for submissions is July 15.


Join us on the terrace at the Rollin Art Centre on Saturday, July 16 for an acrylic painting workshop with Susan Schaefer. Bring a friend and be creative!

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Susan will guide you through what makes a good composition while simplifying your landscape.

The workshop fee is $115 +GST. A supply list is available. Register at the Rollin Art Centre at 250-724-3412.


This summer, the Community Arts Council will be raffling a chair designed by Leave Her Wild Container Design. The chair has been planted and is on display at the Rollin Art Centre (corner of Eighth Avenue and Argyle Street). Tickets are $2 each or three for $5.


Teas on the Terrace are back at the Rollin Art Centre this summer and tickets are now on sale.

Choose from our high tea (served on a two-tiered plate) for $25 and our strawberry tea (served with decadent strawberry shortcake) for $20 and join us on the terrace under the canopy of the trees, sipping tea, listening to local musicians and sampling a selection of snacks.

July 7 – Strawberry Tea – Folk Song Circle

July 21 – High Tea – Dennis Olsen

August 4 – Strawberry Tea – Dennis Olsen & Guy Langlois

August 18 – High Tea – Doug Gretsinger


Here’s a chance to have your kids do something creative and fun and make new friends this summer. The Rollin Art Centre is offering eight weeks of creative summer art programs for children between the ages of 7 -13.

Each week features a different medium. From drawing to painting, we have something everyone will enjoy.

The three-day camps take place Monday to Wednesday for ages 7-8 (10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), and ages 9-11 (1:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.). The cost is $75 per week.

There is also a camp for ages 11 to 13 on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ($45 per camp).

Call 250-724-3412 to register.


Celtic Chaos will perform a maintee at the Capitol Theatre this fall as a fundraiser for the Rollin Art Centre.

“For the Highlander” is a brand-new performance by Celtic Chaos which tells their story in original narrative, poetry, song and music. Join us for this high-energy, fun-loving group of musicians and help support art in the community.

The concert takes place Sunday, Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre. Tickets are $25 each and are available now at the Rollin Art Centre.


The Sunshine Club will be holding a pottery sale at the Harbour Quay on Saturday, June 25 from 9 a.m. to noon.


June 22 to July 22 – “Women’s Work” – group exhibit – Sue Thomas, Jillian Mayne, Colleen Clancy, and Ann McIvor

July 16 – Acrylic workshop

July and August – Teas on the Terrace – Tickets available now

July and August – Children’s Summer Art Camps

Sept. 17 – Giant Book Sale – Athletic Hall

Nov. 6 – Celtic Chaos performs – Tickets on sale now

Melissa Martin is the Arts Administrator for the Community Arts Council, at the Rollin Art Centre and writes for the Alberni Valley News. Call 250-724-3412. Email:

Artart exhibitPort Alberni

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