It began as a personal mission to revive a traditional Inuit custom. Now, it’s become a published book — one that Angela Hovak Johnston hopes will inspire Inuit women across Canada.
In late November, Johnston, the driving force behind the Inuit Tattoo Revitalization Project, published Reawakening Our Ancestors’ Lines: Revitalizing Inuit Traditional Tattooing. The book tells the stories of 26 women in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, the first to receive traditional Inuit tattoos from Johnston.
“When I got the email and the photos of the book from the printers, I just broke down and started crying,” she said. “It was so amazing. It happened. Just all my visions coming to life.”
Johnston has been working to revive the practice of traditional Inuit tattooing since 2005, when she learned the last woman tattooed in the traditional way had died. After learning the traditional way of tattooing from an artist from Alaska, Johnston, who got her own facial tattoos nine years ago, has now tattooed nearly 100 women, starting with participants in her home community of Kugluktuk.
It’s those women’s stories that make up the book, and it was in Kugluktuk where it had its official launch, said Johnston.
“I really wanted the women of Kugluktuk to see the book before anybody else. We had such a great turnout,” she said.
“It was really beautiful and really cute to watch them. When they opened the book, they heard the crack, right? And they were like: ‘I don’t want to crack it!’
“Just seeing the pride in the women when they were opening the book, and the women saying they can’t believe they’re in a book, and how beautiful they look, and how excited they are to read the other women’s stories.”
Johnston said a book had been part of the plan for the project since its…