My name is Taalrumiq/Christina King. I am an Inuvialuit woman originally from Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada. Inuvialuit are the Inuit of the Canadian Western Arctic. My home community is in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region on the shores of the Beaufort Sea/Arctic Ocean.
Currently, I am living in Prince George, BC the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh. Although I am far from my ancestral homeland and community, my culture is what inspires my work.
These masks are my Inuvialuit response to Covid-19. Over half of our people were wiped out during the Spanish Flu epidemic approximately 100 years ago and we were on the brink of extinction. We had no natural immunity to diseases brought over by European Whalers and Fur Traders. My maternal grandparents were young children who helped fetch water for the sick and dying during that time. Today's Inuvialuit descend from those who survived the devastating flu epidemic. We also face the same fear with Covid-19. These masks are a testament to our strength and resilience as Inuvialuit People. We are strong, intelligent, successful, modern people who still live according to traditional values and way of life passed on to us from our ancestors.
As Indigenous people, our experiences tell us that we aren't really seen, heard, or valued by mainstream society. Yet we are still here despite years of colonization, systemic racism and injustice, genocide, diseases, starvation, residential schools, and ongoing ill treatment of our people. These masks are a sister set, inspired by the resilience, strength, and fortitude of Inuvialuit people and culture; these masks say "I'm here, I'm real, I have value, I exist." We are still here. Our experiences, our history, our future matters, we matter.
Both masks feature traditional design elements of Inuvialuit clothing, such as walrus tusks. Walruses were an important resource for Inuvialuit life in the arctic, providing food, material for tools, rope, waterproof clothing and oil for lamps.
Mask 1 is reminiscent of our traditional parka. It is made with seal skin, black leather, fabric, ptarmigan feathers, birchbark, sequins, beads and chainette fringe. This mask features white walrus tusks, enhanced with mini sequins. The geometric design in traditional black, white and red, were made of caribou hide and fur long ago. Ptarmigan feathers and birch bark are two simple things that hold strong memory for me and love for my culture. No matter how insignificant something might seem, everything had a purpose in Inuvialuit life and culture. Ptarmigan, a small arctic bird, provides food and its feathers are useful. Birch bark is found on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, washed up with drift wood, providing another necessity - fire starter, essential for life in the arctic.