Tatooed Spirit

About this object

History of use

Contemporary Inuit prints were first produced at Cape Dorset in 1957. Although precursors to printmaking can be seen in women's skin applique work and in men's incising of ivory, stone and bone, the impetus for printmaking was as a commercial venture. This venture was established jointly by Inuit artists and John Houston, the civil administrator for Cape Dorset. Other Inuit communities quickly followed the commercial success of Cape Dorset's West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative. Printmaking developed as a communal activity following a Japanese, rather than a Western, model of serigraph production. Each year the cooperatives produce a series of limited edition prints which are sold in the retail art market. In 1965, the Canadian Eskimo Arts Council was established from the Canadian Eskimo Art Committee to ensure high standards were maintained. Printmaking, along with stone carving, provide cash income for communities which have undergone rapid and significant change, during the late 20th century, from traditional hunting based societies to settled communities dependent on consumer goods. The prevalent images depicted in Inuit art are of traditional life, arctic animals and mythology. Recently, contemporary subjects have been depicted by a minority of artists.


The Dorset Cooperative follows Japanese tradition, where printmaking specialists assume responsibility for the print, rather than the artist supervising all aspects of the process. The earliest prints were stone cut and stencil. Copperplate engraving dominated by the early 1960's, with a continuation of printing. Lithographs were introduced in 1972. Cape Dorset catalogue number: 75-76. This print was printed a few years after Johnniebo's death.

Cultural context

contemporary art

Physical description

Stylized brown facial features in a large circle. Arms legs extended to hold horn-like protuberances with animal heads. Has legs. Pencil inscription across the bottom edge reads 'Tatooed Spirit 42/50 Dorset 1975 (after) Johnniebo' followed by syllabics (kinuajua). Canadian Eskimo Arts Council's blind embossed stamp at the lower corner on the right. The print is on a horizontally rectangular, white paper piece.