Inuit design group teams up with Winnipeg Art Gallery for new project

A group of artists from Nunavut are gathering inspiration 1,000 kilometres away from home with a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) opened its vault to the members Hinaani Design, a four-member collective of artists and creators specializing in Inuit fashion.

The group consists of Nooks Lindell, Paula Ikuutaq Rumbolt, Emma Kreuger and Lori Tagoona.

Lindell, who is lead designer at Hinaani, said the group couldn’t pass up an opportunity to visit the vaults to view artwork others haven’t seen.

Tucked away in a section on the gallery not visible to the public, the WAG houses thousands of artworks and artifacts, including the largest collection of contemporary Inuit art.

For the first time Lindell is getting to see some of these pieces, and it’s a special experience.

“It [hits] really close to home because a lot of the [artists] are related to us. We saw our grandmother’s work,” said Lindell.

The group also saw works by Ikuutaq Rumbolt’s grandparents.

Hinanni started in 2016 with basic t-shirt designs with the word “Inuk” printed on the front of them.

Since then, they have expanded to include sweaters, leggings, dresses and accessories with other Inuit-inspired designs such as the ulu, a traditional knife used to skin and clean animals.

Clothing has always been important to people of the north, said Lindell.

“With Inuit there’s a rule you’re not allowed to brag so the way you did it was through your clothing,” he said.

“[If] you had very well made clothing that showed you had a good hunter that could provide the skins and you had a good seamstress who could sew it.”

The group’s visit to the WAG is stirring up some inspiration for a new project.

Hinaani is teaming up with the gallery to create an exclusive line to help launch the opening of the Inuit Art Centre, which is set to open in fall 2020.

The chance to honour artists of the past is what drives the group to continue creating designs Inuit can be proud of, said Lindell.

Lori Tagoona said the line with combine new and old designs.

“We’re trying to reach medium where it’s something our generation would want to wear but still we’re respecting the original artist,” she said.

“Cultures are constantly evolving and we’re evolving. We’re keeping Inuk alive.”

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