Inuit artist banned in Canada opens show in Port Townsend
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A sculpture of kayakers is among the new works by Inuit artist Jonasie Faber on display at Ancestral Spirits in Port Townsend.

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND -- An Inuit artist who is banned from selling his work in Canada is on his way to Port Townsend.

Jonasie Faber, 65, will open an exhibition of more than 50 stone sculptures and jewelry pieces at Ancestral Spirits Gallery, 701 Water St., with a reception from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. today, during Port Townsend's Gallery Walk.

Faber was born in Greenland in a town called Qaqortoq, and later lived in Denmark.

During his first career in the Merchant Marine, he traveled the globe.

He moved to Canada as an immigrant in 1974, believing it was a country where he would be accepted.

Faber, his wife, Diane Henderson, and their two children now live in Summerland, B.C.

Nearly three years ago the Canada Revenue Agency audited Faber, and the artist hired an attorney who obtained a copy of his tax file, according to an October 2007 CTV news report.

In the file was a memo, Faber told CTV, that said, "As is typical of natives, he doesn't have the same sense of urgency as we would have in complying with a deadline. I likened it to the 'manana' (maybe tomorrow) attitude."

Human Rights Commission

Faber considered this a racial slur on his Inuit heritage, and went to the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Earlier this year the artist won a five-figure settlement -- the agreement prevents him from disclosing the amount, Faber said -- though he's paying a high price for it.

The Canada Revenue Agency is still accusing him of hiding assets, including a secret second home in Ontario and a bank account on Grand Cayman Island, Faber said in an interview this week.

As a result, he is forbidden to sell his art in Canada -- even as examples of it remain on display in museums across the country.

Canada Revenue Agency spokesman David Morgan, reached earlier this week, declined to comment on Faber's case, citing the Income Tax Act's confidentiality clause.

Annette Huenke owns Ancestral Spirits with her partner Alex Vinniski, and has represented Faber for a decade.

"He is one of the hardest-working, most prolific Inuit artists alive today," she said.

"We are keen to help him survive this period as he seeks to have this restriction overturned by the legal system," Huenke added. But "it's possible he won't outlive this."

First show since ban

Faber, for his part, said he is excited about opening his first show since the ban.

He said the Canada Revenue Agency's allegations are wholly untrue, and believes the government is retaliating since he won his case in the Human Rights Commission tribunal.

Faber believes he is the only banned artist in Canada.

He said he still has artwork in galleries elsewhere, however, including Images of the North in San Francisco.

Faber's sculptures have been shown in galleries in Washington, D.C., as well as Paris, France, and in the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec, the Olympic Centre in Calgary, Alberta, and at the Fairmont Empress hotel in Victoria, British Columbia.

His jewelry pieces sell for as little as $50, while the sculptures of dancing bears and other Inuit images go up to $5,000.

Huenke said his show at Ancestral Spirits is ongoing.

"I'm really anxious to assist him in getting his art out to the public," she added, "especially since he's been blacklisted."


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at

Last modified: August 06. 2010 12:21AM
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