Highlights of Inuit Sculpture
This display features a few of the outstanding sculptures by Inuit artists in the permanent collection of the WAG. The most common material used by Inuit artists is stone, and the type of stone is dependent upon what can be hand-quarried locally. Some communities have only small deposits of carving stone nearby and artists often resort to using organic materials, such as ivory, antler, and whale bone. Artists such as Charlie Ugyuk from Taloyoak have become known for their expressive use of ancient whale bone left on the tundra by their predecessors.
Most of the sculptures in this display have subject matter relating to traditional shamanic legends and beliefs. Two works by Aqjangajuk Shaa and Manasie Akpaliapik depict the powerful female sea spirit, known variously as Sedna, Taleelayuk, or Nuliajuk. Several other pieces show shamans partially transformed into the spirits of their animal helpers: walrus, caribou, and bird. One work by Abraham Anghik Ruben symbolizes the death/rebirth ritual of a shaman’s apprentice. One of the fascinations of Inuit sculpture is observing how the intrinsic qualities of the various carving materials are used to create unique and evocative artworks.