This is a watercolour portrait of Kanguagiu, an Inuit woman who lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. 

Kanguagiu was 60 years old when Royal Navy officer John Ross painted her portrait in the 1830s. We know a surprising amount about her and her family, thanks to Ross's paintings and book, Narrative of a Second Voyage to the Arctic.

But what can the portrait tell us about the unequal power structures behind it? And how can Kanguagiu's face tattoos help us explore the contemporary Inuit movement to reclaim the traditional practices outlawed under colonisation?

Charlotte Connelly, Curator at the Polar Museum, tells us more.



Portrait of Kanguagiu by John Ross

Kanguagiu is shown sitting by the wall, and is dressed in brown furs from head to foot. She looks out seriously from inside her fur hood, which reveals a hint of her gray hair. Her forehead is lined and her face is tattooed with blue lines. Her hands wear mittens and are clasped in her lap. The watercolour is amateur but evokes the thick fur of her clothes well.