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Newly discovered illustrations of Abraham Ulrikab’s stay in Prague

(Version française de ce billet)


I hope you are all enjoying summer and making the most of it.

Things continue to be quite busy around here with lots to do to raise awareness about Abraham’s story. But before I tell you more about what has been happening, I thought I’d start with informing you of a discovery I made last April in Prague. 

This was my very first time in Prague, and as far as I know, nobody had previously been there to go through local newspapers in search of texts or advertisements related to the Inuit’s stay in this city back in 1880. I was most pleased that my visits to the National Library of the Czech Republic and to the Náprstek Museum  allowed me to locate several articles and advertisements mentioning the Inuit. The find I am most proud of is undoubtedly this series of eight illustrations by Czech painter Adolf Liebscher (1857-1919) published in November 1880:

1880 Illustrations of the Labrador Inuit in Prague

1880 Illustrations of the Labrador Inuit in Prague

The first row shows a portrait of Tigianniak, a scene with Nuggasak, Tigianniak (with his pipe) and Paingu inside their hut, and a portrait of Abraham.

The second row shows a portrait of Nuggasak, a scene with Tobias, Paingu, Tigianniak, Ulrike & Sara in front of a hut (notice the walrus skull on the roof), followed by a portrait of Ulrike carrying Maria in her amauti.

The bottom row shows Tigianniak laying down in a tent smoking his pipe while three dogs sit patiently by the tent and the kamotik (sled). Finally, Abraham and Tobias are represented in their kayaks.

Many thanks to Ms. Lenka Válková of the National Library of the Czech Republic for having volunteered to do the initial review of the various 1880 newspapers on my behalf. Thanks to Mr. Dieter Riedel and Ms. Jaro Rimes, these texts written in either German or Czech, are currently being translated to English.

In the past weeks, these ilustrations have been used in two reports on French language television. The first one, a report by Jean-François Bélanger, Radio-Canada’s Paris correspondent, aired on Radio-Canada’s national news of June 21 at the occasion of National Aboriginal day. The interview was conducted in Paris in April following the launch of my book at the Canadian Cultural Center.

Jean-François Bélanger and his cameran, Carlos, preparing for the interview at the Jardin d'acclimatation. Paris, April 2015.

Jean-François Bélanger and his cameran, Sergio Santos, preparing for the interview at the Jardin d’acclimatation. Paris, April 2015.

Setting up for the interview in the Bois de Boulogne.

Setting up for the interview in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris, April 2015.

The second occasion where the illustrations were used was during a 10 minute live interview on 64′ le monde en français, the daily newscast of TV5 Monde, the international French-language television network. This interview was conducted on July 13 and aired simultaneously around the globe.

I invite you to take a look at Polar Horizons’ most recent newsletter to get a more detailed list of the media coverage the story has been getting. In it, you’ll also discover that Abraham’s story wan the 2015 European Union-Canada Young Journalist Fellowship! 

But, before I let you got, let me finally, translate to English the text I posted a few weeks ago about my one week stay in Paris last April. My visit to Paris was the conclusion of a three week research trip which also took me to Hamburg and Prague. The main event in Paris was the European launch of the book In the Footsteps of Abraham Ulrikab. It was a privilege to give my lecture in such a prestigious place as the Canadian Cultural Centre, facing the Esplanade des Invalides, with a view of the Eiffel Tower.

Tour Eiffel vue de la salle du Centre culturel canadien où a eu lieu ma conférence.

Eiffel Tower seen from the room at the Canadian Cultural Center where the conference and book lauch were held.

The event was organized in collaboration with Espace culturel Inuit and brought together more than sixty people. What an honour it was to see reunited in the same room so many of the people who contributed to either the discovery of the human remains, of Labrador artifacts, of photographs, or other information allowing us to know so much about the events that took place in the City of Light, 134 years ago. Curators, archivists, librarians, historians, anthropologists, collectors and diplomats were seated with friends and other individuals interested, or intrigued, by the talk’s topic.

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Many thanks go to Sylvie Teveny and Céline Espardellier for organizing the event and to Dauriane Viard for taking the initiative to photograph the event. Dauriane, who is passionate about the Arctic and its people, studied photography for several years and is currently planning a photographic journey that should take her to Greenland and Svalbard, in less than 2 years, to photograph polar bears.

Another interesting visit I made while in Paris was to the Louis Vuitton Foundation, a recently opened museum of contemporary art built right beside the Jardin d’acclimatation, the zoo where the Inuit were exhibited in January 1881. The building is truly remarkable and unique, but I was most curious to see the view from the outdoor terraces since they are facing the pond where the Inuit paddled their kayaks. From the terraces, I could see only part of the pond. The vegetation, which was already very dense on April 21, and the beams of the museum’s structure prevented me from seeing the big lawn, the area to the left of the pond where Inuit’s huts had been built. Nevertheless, the terraces offer an amazing view point and show how close the Inuit were to the buzz of the city life.

The Louis Vuitton Foundation as seen from the Jardin d'acclimatation.

The Louis Vuitton Foundation as seen from the Jardin d’acclimatation.


Jardin d'acclimatation's pond as seen from the outdoor galleries of the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

Jardin d’acclimatation’s pond as seen from the outdoor galleries of the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

The terraces of the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

The terraces of the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

Hope to tell you more soon about the information collected during this latest research trip.

Have a great day!
France Rivet

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