One of the things I take away from Paul Uta’naaq’s Drum Dance in the Igloo (1968) is that it records a participatory event. There is only one drum dancer yet the group is sharing the intimate experience of making music together. The feeling is palpable just looking at the print.
Uta’naaq’s hand is visible in each of the different elements. At first glance, the work appears simple but, upon closer inspection, there is a deep complexity to it. There are at least three different perspectives in this stonecut, and each was clearly considered and rendered by the artist. There are many nuanced details—the small fish on the table that is gestured to, an etched line in negative space. The figures wear fur clothing with carefully articulated patterns. The standing female figure’s amauti and pants show inlaid designs and the drum dancer’s delicate fringe is beautifully captured in motion.
Now over 50 years since it was put to paper, it is important to re-evaluate withheld works like this. Not only was this print stone cut, but a full edition of 50 prints was pulled from it. Uta’naaq never made another print after this, and I wonder if the rejection of Drum Dance in the Igloo is why. It is a captivating print and I feel like we have missed out on the many other works the artist could have made.
This article is part of our Feature series “What Gets Lost: The Canadian Eskimo Arts Council’s Rejected Prints“.