Owl and Ptarmigan, 1980
Agnes Nanogak Goose
Canadian (Inuit), 1925
colour stencil on mulberry paper
Printed by Mary Okheena
46.6 x 72 cm
Gift of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 1989
National Gallery of Canada (no. 36537)
The artists of Ulukhaktok (formerly Holman) released their first print collection in 1965. The "ulu" (woman's knife) is their print symbol. As in Pangnirtung, the stencil process has been a preferred medium, and the printmakers have made great technical advances. Bold colours, fluid forms, and lively compositions are typical. A rich oral tradition provides many artists, such as Agnes Nanogak Goose, with inspiration. She weaves together, in rich visual imagery, stories inherited from her grandparents, parents, and mother-in-law.
The owl was in love with the little white ptarmigan, who already had a husband whom she loved very much. In a fit of jealousy, the owl killed his rival and began to woo the ptarmigan in the hope of winning her heart. But the little ptarmigan cried for her dead husband; she did not love her new suitor and rejected his advances by ridiculing his appearance in song. The owl, who thought himself handsome, became angry and wanted to shame the ptarmigan in return, so he sang:
"Eater of owls! Bah!
I shall leave you!"
Then, he flew away.