Friday, September 14, 2007

a note from dusty owl: Alootook Ipellie

It is with great sadness that I write to inform you that Ottawa-based writer and artist Alootook Ipellie passed away this pass week.

For those that did not have the opportunity to meet him, the following is taken from an article written by Michael P. J. Kennedy:
Alootook Ipellie, born in 1951, Canadian Inuit author, editor, artist, and cartoonist, whose Arctic Dreams and Nightmares (1993) was the first published collection of short stories by an Inuit writer. Inuit life in the Arctic region of Canada changed significantly during the 20th century. The traditional Inuit nomadic life, based on hunting and fishing, was largely replaced by life in settlements that more closely resembled those of southern Canada. Ipellie's life and creative work vividly reflect this period of change among the Inuit of Canada.

Ipellie was born at a hunting camp on Baffin Island in what is now Nunavut, Canada. Although he and his family continued to be involved with some seasonal hunting, the family spent most of its time in the town of Frobisher Bay (now Iqaluit), Nunavut's largest community. His early education was in Iqaluit, but because there was no high school in the community, he had to leave for further education in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and later in Ottawa, Ontario. At Ottawa's High School of Commerce, Ipellie first developed his drawing skills.

Ipellie settled in Ottawa, but he continued to create work for and about the Inuit in the north. In the early 1970s he did translations between English and the Inuit language of Inuktitut, worked as a journalist, and drew cartoons for Inuit Monthly (later renamed Inuit Today) magazine. Ipellie served as editor of Inuit Today from 1979 to 1982. In the 1970s his ongoing cartoon strip Ice Box in Inuit Today provided a humorous, critical view of life for Inuit in the changing north. A later strip, Nuna and Vut, which appeared in Iqaluit's Nunatsiaq News in the 1990s, continued his satiric look at a life of transition in the Arctic. His pen-and-ink drawings have been featured at exhibitions in Canada, Norway, and Greenland.

Ipellie's nonfiction writing, such as his series of articles, Those Were the Days, in Inuit Monthly (1974-1976), depicts how the lifestyle, religion, politics, language, and culture of the south have affected the Inuit way of life. His poetry, such as Take Me to Your Leader (1980) and Walking Both Sides of an Invisible Border (1992), also illustrates his attention to the effects of change on Inuit life.

Ipellie has become best known as a writer of short fiction. His stories, like his poems, have appeared in many literary journals, magazines, and anthologies. One of his early stories, Nipikti the Old Man Carver (1976), is a gentle reflection by an old man on how things used to be in simpler times in the north. With the publication of his collection Arctic Dreams and Nightmares in 1993, Ipellie's work became more controversial, as he used magical plot situations to combine traditional Inuit myths and legends with contemporary people and events from outside the Arctic. This collection pairs Ipellie's stories with his ink drawings. In stories such as "When God Sings the Blues," "After Brigitte Bardot," and "Summit with Sedna," Ipellie imaginatively illustrates how Inuit tradition has survived despite the influence of southern culture.

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