BY: SADIE MACDONALD
|Art and Innovation: Traditional Arctic Footwear from the Bata Shoe Museum Collection. Photo Credit: Sadie MacDonald.|
|These shoes rule. Source.|
This exhibition features boots, clothing, and sewing tools from various people who live around the Arctic. Cultures from three continents are represented, from Inuit to Sami to Nenet. The showcases are grouped by region (Greenland, Canada, Alaska, Western Siberia, Eastern Siberia, and Sápmi) and are positioned according to those regions’ respective location around the Arctic within the room’s space (clever, clever). This project is the result of field research organized by the Bata Shoe Museum, and interviews and demonstrations were conducted with the objects’ makers. The opening statement reminds us that “many of the boots in this exhibition have a story to tell.”
|The Art and Innovation exhibition's glacial ambience. Photo Credit: Sadie MacDonald.|
While they are all grouped under this exhibit as part of the Arctic in general, the articles on display are from a variety of cultures and were made for a variety of purposes from a variety of materials. Utility, ceremony, gender identity, and straight-up artistry are common themes. Materials include reindeer pelt, seal intestine, grass, fish skin, and duck skin.
|Slippers made from eider duck skin – seriously! Meeko, Silatik. Sanikiluaq, Belcher Islands, Nunavut, Canada. 1989. Photo Credit: Sadie MacDonald.|
|Siberian white reindeer boots. Moldanova, Natasha. Beloyarsk, Ob Basin, Siberia, Russia. 1980s. Photo Credit: Sadie MacDonald.|
|These must have taken forever to make. Okadluk, Leah. Arctic Bay, Northwest Territories, Canada. 1987. Photo Credit: Sadie MacDonald.|
|Take a closer look at that snout. Photo Credit: Sadie MacDonald.|
The exhibited objects are in beautiful condition – lots of glossy pelts and bright colours here! Most of these items were made during the 20th century by skilled craftworkers. It’s an important reminder that these are contemporary objects involved in ongoing cultural traditions and everyday activities, and not artifacts from dead, ancient history as popular perception too often casts indigenous works. Here, they are alive.
True to their word, there are many stories told by these shoes. Give them a listen sometime!