With the Covid-19 pandemic receding and sea ice clearing for the summer months, cruise ships are returning to Nunavut en masse.

Their return can be a boon for the artists in the communities where the passenger vessels dock.

Cruises stopped visiting Nunavut through much of the pandemic, but began to return in small numbers in 2022.

Pond Inlet, which receives more cruise ships than any other community in the territory, is expecting up to 30 such vessels to arrive at its dock this season, depending on sea ice conditions.

“Before the pandemic, it was finally picking up,” said Dylan Mablick, tourism director at Pond Inlet’s Nattinnak Visitor Centre. “Pond Inlet was finally becoming popular, it was building up, and then the pandemic hit.

“The cruise ships weren’t coming for a few years until last year, finally, and there weren’t that many last year,” he added. “It was a slow start at first but things are building up again.”

The disappearance of cruise ships during the pandemic was difficult for many people in Pond Inlet, including teachers, who sometimes take cruise-related jobs during the summer months, and the unemployed, who are able to find work more easily during cruise season. Artists were also hit hard, according to Mablick, as the arrival of the passenger vessels is one of the best opportunities for them to sell their products.

“It was difficult,” Mablick said. “Some people had to isolate and couldn’t even go out. For artists, when their products are their only source of income, they couldn’t sell it and it was difficult for them.”

During cruise season, artists in Pond Inlet typically sell their wares out of the community centre, which is near the dock where the vessels arrive.

They sell a range of items to the hundreds of people that disembark each season, but tend to focus on woven and beaded goods, as international travellers, particularly those from Europe, are often not allowed to bring sealskin and other animal products back into their home countries.

“They buy [painted] art and things that are sewn out of yarn,” Mablick said.

Artists and craftspeople in other communities, such as Resolute, Qikiqtarjuaq, Arctic Bay, Gjoa Haven and Cambridge Bay, are also readying for cruise ships to return in varying numbers.

Those in Cambridge Bay have had much of the legwork removed by an innovative new program enacted by the municipality.

This year, Cambridge Bay Hamlet Council has designated $50,000 from previous years’ cruise service fees to purchase products directly from Cambridge Bay artists, which will then be sold to this year’s cruise ship passengers from the hamlet office. All profits will be returned to the artists, except for a 10 per cent fee that will be added to the price of the goods to account for loss and breakage.

So far, the council has purchased almost 250 items from more than 20 Cambridge Bay artists.

Only a few pieces have been sold to date, but the bulk of the vessels slated to visit the community have yet to arrive, with 11 expected to dock between now and mid-September.

“We are thrilled by the quality of the work we have collected and feel honoured to display these items until they are sold,” said Angela Gerbrandt, Cambridge Bay’s community economic development officer.

By Tom Taylor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 31, 2023 at 07:32

This item reprinted with permission from   Nunavut News   Iqaluit, Nunavut
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