Province/Territory: Nunavut

Nunavut Arts and Culture

  • 84 percent Inuit population
  • 110 carvers and printmakers in Cape Dorset
  • 20 million dollars of arts and crafts produced annually

Nunavut is an Arctic territory whose predominantly Inuit population makes it rich with aboriginal art and culture. On a warm summer day in most communities carvers sit outside unleashing polar bears and dancing walruses from chunks of stone, antler, marble or bone: make an offer and buy creations warm from the sculptor’s hands. Stone carvings from Cape Dorset - with the highest per capita number of artists in Canada – have been gifted to presidents, kings and popes. World famous Inuit prints are made in Cape Dorset as well as in the scenic community of Pangnirtung where you can also watch weavers at work in a unique tapestry studio. Iqaluit, the territorial capital, is a creative hub with several art boutiques including the well-stocked Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum gift shop. Head to the Legislative Assembly, designed along the sleek lines of a traditional Inuit sled, and see masterpieces like a scepter carved from narwhal tusk ivory. Visit Iqaluit during Toonik Tyme in spring to hear elders’ stories, traditional throat-singing and drum dancing. Learn Inuit games and dine on caribou stew. Or experience the Alianait! Arts Festival in July, a Northern theatre, film, music and dance extravaganza playing out beneath the Midnight Sun.

Why you should visit
  • Toonik Tyme, is a lively spring festival that thumbs its nose at winter with traditional Inuit games, carving, dogsledding and igloo building.
  • Visiting Iqaluit’s Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum’s permanent and current Arctic exhibitions and prowl the gift shop for local carvings and prints.
  • Listen to throat singing or Arctic hip-hop and circus, drum dancing and Northern break-dancing during Iqaluit’s week-long Alianait! Arts Festival.
  • Look over the shoulders of world class Inuit stone carvers and printmakers in Cape Dorset.
  • Buy a handmade “Pang hat”, tapestry or print in the Inuit community of Pangnirtung.

Weather

  • From May through August, days in Southern Baffin Island are long and sunny, averaging 16 hours of daylight with temperatures from 5°C to 25°C.
  • Spring and fall may be chilly in the evening and near the water so be sure to pack jackets, gloves and a hat.
  • The shortest days of December have four hours of daylight with temperatures of -10°C to -32°C.
  • Snow is not uncommon during any month of the year so pack warm clothing.
  • Discover local weather information. Research local weather patterns at Environment Canada's Canadian Climate Website.
Visitor information
  • Admission is free to Iqaluit’s Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, Cape Dorset’s Kinngait Co-operative and the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts in Pangnirtung.
  • The facilities are open year-round, but opening hours vary greatly depending on the time of year and staffing. Call in advance to ensure doors will be open.
  • In summer, artists might be carving outside. If you are interested in buying, be sure to be present when the piece is completed or it may be sold to the first taker, even if a verbal agreement was made to save it for you. Artists usually carve to support their families financially.
  • Hard bartering is considered impolite.
When to go
  • If you want to see Inuit artists at work - consider heading to Nunavut in spring, fall and winter.
  • Many still follow a traditional lifestyle which means they may be “on the land”, camping with their families on weekends or throughout the entire summer.
Need to know
  • Inuit art can be bought year-round in most Nunavut communities in Northern Stores and Arctic Co-ops that purchase directly from local artists. However, they often stock only a small selection as most is sent for sale to southern Canada.
  • Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay visitor centres can point art enthusiasts to shops, galleries, and artists willing to open their homes to art seekers.
  • Even in smaller communities like Pond Inlet, Kimmirut and Igloolik, locals will let you know where artists live and if you can visit their homes.
  • Iqaluit offers the most art shopping options with the greatest selection for art-seekers.
Getting Here