Seal hunting is widely misconstrue, says a new wave of fashion designers, who are challenging perceptions with a mix of modern and traditional work
First, she looked to tradition, immersing herself in the Inuit customs of mitten and parka-making. Next, Victoria Kakuktinniq tried out the contemporary, heading south to train in fashion design before returning home to Nunavut, Canadas northernmost territory.
The result is a way line that marries modern design with tradition captured in a first collection that includes four sealskin winter coats and which has established Kakuktinniqs place among the cadre of decorators and seamstresses in Canadas north working to reclaim sealskins place in haute couture.
Its part of my culture, said Kakuktinniq, 27, who launched Victorias Arctic Fashion in 2013. The Inuit are genuinely trying our best to promote our culture and indicate our way of life and how our ancestors lived.
It a way of life that has increasingly come under attack in recent decades. Opposition to seal hunting gathered force in the 1960 s and 70 s, with graphic campaigns that featured fluffy seal puppies being bludgeoned by hunters. It soon snowballed into a global, celebrity-studded movement that saw the US and European Union ban the import of virtually all seal products.
But little thought was given to the impact these anti-sealing campaigns would have on Inuit, said the film-maker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril. When you totally erase Inuit from the picture, it can appear as a black and white issue, she said. But were the people of the seal, were hunters.
Starting in the 1950 s, the carnage of hundreds, if not thousands, of sled puppies by the Royal Canadian mounted police left many Inuit with few options but to abandon the semi-nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors and settle into permanent communities.
Other Inuit were forcibly relocated north by a Canadian government keen to claim sovereignty over the high reaches of the Arctic. Some Inuit were also sent away to residential schools, described by a truth commission as a church-run tool of cultural genocide and rife with abuse.
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