This year’s print collection has
been dedicated to the life and work of Annie Kilabuk Jr., respected visual
artist, printmaker, traditional sewer, beloved mother, wife, daughter and member
of the northern community of Pangnirtung for many years.
It was with deep sadness that I
heard of Annie’s passing in December 2005. I thought about just how quickly a
lifetime can go by, as well as how strongly we can connect with people from
different cultures, particularly when there is a shared and continuous passion,
as there was in this case, with drawing and printmaking.
As well, when we are leaving a
community and saying good-bye to the people we have come to care about, we are
often lulled into believing that there will always be a next time: when it is
not to be. Annie seemed well aware of this, though, as her last words to me a
year ago were that she would be would no longer be living the next time I came to
Pangnirtung. At the time, I was taken aback; however, I now understand that she
was merely stating, factually, the inevitable progress of her illness.
As I reflect upon the multitude
of archived drawings by Annie Kilabuk, I think about how dedicated she was to
sharing with others her unique view of the world around her. I remember how she
continued to participate in the 2003 Pangnirtung Community Print Collection
(where she was to create and produce her most popular relief print, “Joy of the
Drum Dance”). At that particular time, Annie’s cancer was not yet diagnosed,
though she would have surely felt the great pain of this particular disease. She
did not allow it to hinder her.
Looking back, I was happy that I
had taken several photographs of Annie Kilabuk at work in the print shop and one
more personal one of Annie and her husband Josepee Kilabuk. I was grateful to be
allowed this glimpse into her family life as well as to have been able to
document, to an extent, her great passion for visual creation, with its
underlying need to communicate her life, her vision and her culture.
All these facets, drawn and
blended together, from light to dark, model a story of hard work, love,
connection, dreams, the mythological, the frightening, pain, death, community,
birth and ultimately the life/death/life cycle of both human beings and animal
In a recent conversation I had
with Annie’s son, William, I noted how birds are a recurring image in his mother's
work. William explained the significance of birds to his mother, pointing out
that Annie began drawing them after the death of her father, William’s
grandfather. His passing moved Annie to ponder the lives of the birds she saw,
how they, in their free form, were not restricted, hemmed in an bound by
physical (and perhaps psychological) boundaries and limitations. Birds in their
natural state travel freely in the world and exist only in the moment.
This moment in time, I myself
think of how Annie Kilabuk’s life work will go on and survive after she is gone.
We invite you to view and celebrate with us, glimpses of Annie’s life, her
place, as well as her powerful and unique vision of her shared Inuit world.
Judith J. Leidl, MFA
Faculty, Art Department
Wolfville, Nova Scotia