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Published: 05 December 2020

By Andy Ross

The Arctic

Jessie Oonark (1906-1985), c. 1973. Wool, cotton, felt. 
Ulus, women's knives, are depicted with women's heads as handles. 

The British Museum has reopened after the second lockdown ands with it an exhibition about the Arctic that comes with a serious message. 

Arctic: Culture and Climate is a display of life in the North that is under threat because of climate change. As the ice melts - scientists predict the Arctic will be clear of ice in 80 years - so centuries of tradition adapted to living in the region are changing rapidly and unalterably. This exhibition displays and explains the predicament that Arctic people are facing. 

Due to Covid the number of visitors is restricted in the show and that allows much more freedom to look and spend time. It is well worth it. The first part of the exhibition is a display of clothing from the Arctic showcasing the ingenuity and skill that has to go into making life in the polar regions possible. It is beautiful, this display, and it sets the tone for the rest of the show. 

Aside from the amazing artefacts such as the one shown here, which show superb artistry and craft-making skill, the curation and displaying deserves to be seen. It is spare without being sparse, utilitarian without being souless. A thoughtful triumph, if that is not too strong a word.

The exhibition is on until the 21st February.