Sinews of Survival

Sinews of Survival

The Living Legacy of Inuit Clothing

Book - 1997
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Betty Issenman examines all aspects of winter and summer Inuit clothing, going back 4000 years, with particular emphasis on northern Canadian Inuit. She also describes the kinds of material and tools used to make the clothing. The focus is on on Inuit clothing as protection, identity, and culture bearer, roles it has played for thousands of years. No other book brings together contemporary and historical material from the circumpolar worlds with original research. Sinews of Survival is a fascinating study of Inuit clothing, past and present. It includes over 200 illustrations of various kinds of clothing. The voices of the Inuit are heard throughout the text in quotations from consultations and the literature. By describing one component of Inuit society, the author opens a pathway to understanding the culture as a whole.
Publisher: Vancouver : UBC Press, c1997.
ISBN: 9780774805964
Branch Call Number: 391.0089 ISS
Characteristics: xiv, 274 p. : ill., maps ; 26 cm.


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Mar 09, 2016

Wonderfully researched and illustrated, this book is far more than just a scholarly discussion of Inuit clothing -- as remarkable and impressive as that is. It explores in fascinating detail many aspects of the regional diversity, cultural practices, beliefs and accomplishments of the indigenous peoples of the far north. I remain astonished at the Inuit's ability to sew together several pieces of different hides into a boot that is not only durable, warm and comfortable but whose seams are totally waterproof -- a feat that no one in a modern mechanized garment factory is likely to be able to do. The fact that this is routinely accomplished with nothing more sophisticated than a home-made bone needle, and that all of their other garments are equally perfect in design and execution once again demonstrates these people's skill and resourcefulness, which only began to be recognized by the world at large when the rest of us discovered their artworks a few years ago. I found it most intriguing that in their language, producing works of art is referred to as "pretending to be working" whereas the making of clothing out of the skins of animals is a skill that is not only critical to survival but also has vitally important spiritual significance, central to their intimate relationship with the natural world -- and thus again essential to their continued survival.

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