Images of cats from the British Museum collection, £9.99
Length: 76.000 cm
Height: 33.000 cm
AOA Ethno 2001,Am.14.13
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Sealskin sprayshirt (akuilisaq)
Made by Louisa Reimer, Ilulissat, Greenland, AD 2000
This sprayshirt of harp seal skin, was made by Louisa Reimer from Ilulissat, and bought from her in July 2000 by Hans Kristian Olsen, who wore it for kayak training and competitions.
Because of its size and the structure of the skin, harp seal is the preferred material for making kayak clothing. To make it waterproof, the skin is plucked free of hair, leaving the dark outer layer, the epidermis, intact. Certain substances are first rubbed on to loosen the hair, making it easier to remove. Traditionally, ashes were widely used. Today, Greenlandic seamstresses use a variety of substances according to personal preference, including soda, scouring powder and baking mixtures.
At the lower edge, where the drawstrings are placed, sprayshirts and tuiliks (hooded jackets) are carefully hemmed. Many seamstresses use a running stitch here, taking care not to make the stitches too small or too close to each other, ensuring that the drawstrings can be smoothly tightened.
Other Views: Bibiane 'Arnaq' Isaksen from Qaqortoq sewing a sprayshirt of dehaired harp seal skin. Nanortalik, July 2001.