Hinaani Design Helping The Inuit “Wear Our Culture on Our Sleeve”

“Your clothing, your hair, it tells who you are. If you are a great hunter you have many furs. A great seamstress has ornate dress.”

Hinaani is an Inuktitut word for “at the floes edge,” where the open sea meets the frozen sea. It is a rich and diverse arctic ecosystem of such creatures as walruses, seals, polar bears, beluga, and narwhals, which makes it an important place for the hunt and the survival and sustenance of the community. 

Keegan ‘Nooks’ Lindell, Emma Kreuger, and Paula Rumbolt have chosen this name for their 1 year old design company to reflect their value of the traditional northern lifestyle, but also in a more figurative way to say something about being on the edge of arctic fashion, combining old values with a modern take on Inuit identity.

img_4363Their screen printed t shirts, and stunning  leggings, dresses, and skirts  featuring Inuit symbols and tools have been making waves from the Kivalliq Trade Show in Rankin Inlet to the Toronto International Film Festival, where their blue and white ulu print dress – pictured to the right – was worn by an attendee to rave reviews.

Colourful, funky ulus (traditional knives) and epic reindeer antler blades (panas) are also on Hinaani’s table. Nooks makes them with the guidance of his elders, and is clear on the importance of this for him. “We want people in the north to live healthy lives.” Not just freedom from disease, but to be culturally and spiritually healthy, to live on healthy land, he explains. To consult the elders and continue a land based life is key to this.

“The Inuit are an artistic people, and we like to look good. We are proud, we wear our culture on our sleeve. We saw many people getting printed items from down south that resembled our traditional prints but were not authentic, so we decided to make our own.”

Nooks told me about the birth of the company, and also of the importance of aesthetics in his culture. “Your clothing, your hair, it tells who you are. If you are a great hunter you  have many furs. A great seamstress has ornate dress.” The prints they work with are based such traditional images as Inuit tattoo designs, and they have a new ‘granny scarf’ line as well.

The North is rural, so a storefront is not in their plans for the near future. The 3 hope to establish a strong online presence and move into doing cultural blogs and tutorials on northern skills and values, passing on the information they have been given by their elders, while innovating their unique merchandise.

Branching out into bulk fabric production with their prints, so that the local sewers can incorporate them into parkas and other craft is also a goal, as well as a shining example of living culture in the North.

As is Nipi Kreuger-Lindell, Nooks and Emma’s wee one, who looks on as Mom and Dad, along with Paula, are part of shaping a new North, dynamic and ancient at the same time, with community values that will nurture this newest generation.

Hinaani Designs is based out of Arviat Nunavut, and took part in this week’s Inuit Studies Conference and e katingavik  Festival.

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