(Re)Claiming cultural identity: the NFB’s Eskimo Legends and Inuit Animation from Cape Dorset

Buchan, Suzanne (2019) (Re)Claiming cultural identity: the NFB’s Eskimo Legends and Inuit Animation from Cape Dorset. In: The Oxford Handbook of Canadian Cinema. Marchessault, Janine and Straw, Will, eds. Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 83-104. ISBN 9780190229108, e-ISBN 9780190229122. [Book Section] (doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190229108.013.6)


The NFB’s Animation Department has produced internationally respected animated films based on aboriginal culture and heritage. In the 1970’s, with support from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, the NFB produced a series of films on Inuit legends that were participatory in nature, including Co Hoedeman’s collaboration with Inuit artists for Owl and the Raven (1973), and Caroline Leaf’s The Owl who Married a Goose (1974). Concurrently, aboriginal animation was supported by the NFB’s workshop in Cape Dorset initiated by Wolf Koenig, resulting in Animation from Cape Dorset (1973), a compilation of 16 short works. While Lorna Roth notes they were devoid of political, social or legal themes or topics (2005: 99), I argue that these films, made collectively by young Inuit filmmakers, are a more effective visual and aural expression of their culture’s artistic and linguistic heritage than the films produced in the NFB Animation Department, in a similar way that W.S. Van Dyke’s docudrama Eskimo (1933) was a cultural corrective to Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1922). The Canada Council’s establishment of the Aboriginal Arts Secretariat (1994) and the creation of the Nunavut Territory (1999) led to a blossoming of Inuit animation. I examine the artistic and narrative legacy of the Cape Dorset animation in the Nunavut Animation Lab, set up in 2006, to reclaim their cultures’ arts heritage, storytelling and identity. This discussion is framed within a larger context of independent animation in Canada, including Quickdraw Animation Society’s Aboriginal Youth Animation Project, its contribution to Canadian film culture, and work with different social, cultural and ethnic groups.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts > Electronic and Digital Arts cluster
Item ID: 17087
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Suzanne Buchan
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2015 08:50
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2023 17:15
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/17087

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