Wear Qisi/Become Seal

shirt design by Paulette Metuq

O’Connor, Kevin, duskin drum, and Paulette Metuq. “Wear Qisi-Become Seal.” Performance Research 22, no. 2 (2017): 20-26.


Wear Qisi, is a t-shirt design depicting Inuit life emerging from the cut open body of a seal. The design highlights the dynamic relationships between Inuit people, seals and the land in the community of Panniqtuuq (or Pang for short), Nunavut, Canada. Seals become Inuit and Inuit become seal through hunting, eating, storytelling and art making. The t-shirt shows the idea of a shared seal-human life world, and highlights the idea that someone, not something, continually dies for the continuation of life (and ways of living). In pointing to a relational ecology that grounds Inuit ways of knowing, it simultaneously pushing back against the decades long ban and curtailment of trade on seal fur in Europe and the United States.

Kevin O’Connor and duskin drum, two practicing performing artists and PhD students in performance studies at UC Davis write alongside Paulette Metuq, an Inuit graphic designer from Pang who created the final “Wear Qisi” image. In this essay, “Wear Qisi, Become Seal” they provide an ethnographic account of how the creative process involving the creation of the t-shirt design became an exploration into a set of complex questions concerning Inuit ways of life, especially in regards to human/seal co-relation. They place the “Wear Qisi” design alongside global warming discourse, and Inuit climate justice activist Shiela Watt-Cloutier’s international diplomacy, to highlight the ways the global world is always already threaded through Inuit-seal wording. By tracing the effects of colonialism, including global organic pollutants that move through seals into Inuit bodies, and based on Inuit responses to climate change, the writers argue, that we, who are not Inuit, are all potentially seal, in seal, of seal, through and for seal. The “Wear Qisi” design counters colonial designs by entangling the global world into Inuit-seal relations.