Well kind of.
To be exact, my "job" does not exist in my culture. What is my job? Why I am an artist of course. I take the "leftovers" of the animals we harvest and eat and make them into pretty things. I draw and paint and create. Things. Things to hang on your wall, things to wear on your wrist, things to give to other people so that they can appreciate handmade beauty. What I make are considered to be luxury items. Items not needed for survival (I can however debate that point). They simply exist to create feeling and mental reactions.
And in my culture we have no artists. In fact there is no Inupiaq word to even describe someone like me. The closest word that exist translates as "someone who makes things."
I'm not saying we don't exist now and that handmade beauty never existed in my culture, but I am saying that the "position" of artist has never existed till now. And of course this creates some problems for me and others like me.
For one thing all of the decoration that existed in my culture existed for a reason. The intricate graphic trim on clothing told of where someone was from and how many people they supported. The labrets on a man's chin explained his social standing. The markings carved into arrows were owners markings. There are very few examples of purely decorative beauty in my culture. In fact the only real expression of an artistic soul was closely tied to the old religion, with shaman's masks and body adornments. With carvings of animals born to lure or control our food source. So when the missionaries came they tied all of these things to the old religion. And of course this meant that they were forbidden. They even banned dancing as they did not understand why it made us happy. There was a great and dark hollow in our timeline where we were nervous about displaying our Inupiaq roots in artistic expression, afraid that it would be tied to something dark and feared.
Even still I am nervous. I have many images that could be tied to shamanism in my gallery. And I have suffered many words of abuse because of them. I have felt the warmth on my face when an elder shames me for even thinking of these things. I even had someone ask me if all elders hate me because of my work. It's a weird world in which I have to explain what "art" is, that it is not worship of any deity, of any religion, or any anti-religion. I explain in quiet words that I just think it is beautiful, and that these things bring me pride in my culture and my heritage. Not all elders are unsure of me though. Some find some pride in my work, or they work to understand the meaning behind them. But still. But still sometimes I hesitate to put an image to paper.
Another thing I see happening is the tendency to label artists. We are a money wanting gang to be sure, I make a living making art but it takes a massive amount of work on my part. We are often labeled as "braggers" or "pushy." Promoting your wares is not a natural Inupiaq ability or characteristic. It does not come natural or feel natural. We are raised to be quiet and humble, so the act of openly promoting our work and openly "pimping" ourselves is sometimes not seen as a friendly act. For as many times I have been told that I am talented and that my artwork is loved, I am also put down for my actions or inactions to include others in my promotions.
Artwork to me is the expression of my soul. And I happen to have a soul that needs a lot of expressing. It took me years to be comfortable with showing people my drawings. Years to not flinch when someone called me an artist, because in my mind it was a foreign word, a foreign position that did not belong in my culture. Years to be okay with writing my thoughts and letting someone else read them. Years.
My one and only wish - and I type this in all seriousness - is that I will bring pride to our artwork and artists. That if a Inupiaq child wishes to become an artist they will be able to do so, and to make a living doing it. I have been working with other artists to create a non-profit organization that will bring a name to our "job". But it will take many years. Many more years.