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Elder profiled in society's initiative
Kitikmeot Heritage Society looks to showcase art at one-year anniversary of Mary Kilaodluk's death

Beth Brown
Northern News Services
Monday, September 26, 2016

The Kitikmeot Heritage Society has selected the late Mary Kilaodluk as the first elder and artist to be showcased in a new initiative.

NNSL photo/graphic

Cambridge Bay elder Mary Kilaodluk, wearing the last major atigi she made for the centre, died one year ago this week, on Sept. 27, at the age of 72. Her artwork is featured by the Kitikmeot Heritage Society, where she worked as an elder in residence. - photo courtesy of Pamela Gross

Kilaodluk, of Cambridge Bay, passed away one year ago this week, on Sept. 27, at the age of 72. She was born on Feb. 11, 1943 in Bathurst Inlet and moved with her family to Cambridge Bay in 1954.

She was known for her intricate traditional sewing skills on parkas, kamiks, and wall hangings - skills she learned from age five under the tutelage of her mother and grandmother.

Both Kilaodluk and her late husband were prolific drum dancers within the community, performing often at festivals and ceremonies.

The elder and accomplished artist made it her mission and mandate to revive the traditional practices she loved for younger generations.

To do this, she believed that teaching was as important as sharing, giving youth the tools to take ownership of their heritage and continue it themselves.

She did this partly through her work as an elder in residence with the Kitikmeot Heritage Society.

Now the centre is looking to create a display to showcase the work of its past and current elders in residence.

Pamela Gross, executive director of the Kitikmeot Heritage Society, said this would include biographies and photos of the elders, as well as recorded interviews.

The centre is hoping to make the exhibit interactive with touchscreens, "to learn more about the artists, the sewing and the elders in residence program." And, to preserve the memory and skill of community icons like Mary Kilaodluk.

"She has been an instrumental role in our centre. She was one of the first elders that we had working with us," said Gross, who is a close relative of Kilaodluk and considered her like a grandmother.

"She passed on a lot of her skills."

The last major piece Kilaodluk created for the society was a sunburst sealskin parka.

"Her sewing techniques were so beautifully done," said Gross.

The centre has five elders who contribute to its traditional knowledge programming. They have all contributed pieces to the centre's collection of craft work.

"We have probably 15 parkas in our archives, we would like to showcase them," said Gross.

The society will be applying for funding for the project this fall.

Kilaodluk is currently a featured artist at the Kitikmeot Heritage Society, so while Gross says the "uplifting presence" of this "genuine lady" is greatly missed in community, her efforts to continue traditional knowledge are lasting.

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