• Feature

7 Works of Fatherly Love

Jun 18, 2021
by Jessica MacDonald

More rarely encountered than portraits of mothers and children, but no less important a relationship, the bond between fathers and their children is seldom portrayed by Inuit artists. When they do depict fathers and children though, the artists show off relationships based on action and learning every bit as much as playing, with fathers teaching their children to hunt and collect eggs, and carrying them home safely when they get too tired. Enjoy seven works that show off paternal love.


Tivi Ilisituk
Father Carrying Tired Son on the Land (n.d.) Steatite 8 × 6 × 7 inches
Courtesy Spirit Wrestler Gallery

In Father Carrying Tired Son on the Land, Tivi Ilisituk shows a parent toting around a sleeping child while out hunting, encapsulating the dual roles of nurturer and protector beautifully in one piece of stone. Juxtaposed against the trust and safety of the child on his back, the hunter is on guard, scanning his surroundings. Using a series of small lines to create similar textures across the mitts, hoods and boots of both father and child, Illisituk poetically shows how the youngster will grow up to protect his or her own child in the same way their father protected them.


Zacharie Ittimangnaq
Man with Child with Bear and Cub (1974)
Courtesy the IAF

Father and child—whether you’re human or bear, it’s all the same. Each balanced on one end of a piece of antler, Zacharie Ittimangnaq has presented two vignettes of fatherhood. In one, a father stands with his child on his shoulders. In the other, a polar bear stands on two legs with a cub in between. If they met each other on the tundra, both would act to protect their child. 


Syollie Amituk
A Hunter and His Son (1974)
Courtesy the IAF

Peekaboo—I see you! At first glance, Syollie Amituk’s print seems to show a hunter in a kayak, with a sealskin float mounted behind. Look more closely, however, and you’ll find the eyes of a child peeping up from the kayak, taking it all in from the safety of his father’s lap. 


Michael Massie
 a father/son moment (2015) Serpentine, bone, ebony, mahogany and copper 2 × 4.75 × 1.75 inches 
Courtesy Spirit Wrestler Gallery

Literally taken under his wing! Although Michael Massie has presented us with two owls, a father/son moment is brilliantly representative of a human parent/child interaction, with dad dispensing wisdom and advice to his listening son. What do you think he’s saying?


Silas Kayakjuak
Father and Son Collecting Eggs (n.d.) Antler and sinew 2.5 × 0.75 × 0.5 inches 
Courtesy Spirit Wrestler Gallery

Standing on his shoulders—maybe to reach for the eggs higher up on the cliff, maybe just to feel taller. Whatever the reason, the wide smiles Silas Kayakjuak has carved on the faces of this father/son pair tell us they’re having a good time.


Jessie Oonark
Untitled (A Man Plays with His Family) (c. 1967) Felt-tip pen 22.8 x 30.5 cm

Rarer still than instances of fatherhood in Inuit art are instances of fathers playing with their children, as in this graphic piece by Jessie Oonark. While Inuit artists often depict mothers playing with their children, depictions of fathers often focus instead on teaching important life skills to their children. Here, we get a look at something more afectionate, as a father swings his child up into the air while two others pull at his coat, begging for their turn.


Norman Qumuaqtuq
Man and Child (1979)
Courtesy IAF

What do you think this image by Norman Qumuaqtuq shows? On its face, a father holds his child’s hands as they stand together, one in front of the other. Is the man teaching his child to walk? Or is the artist commenting instead on the many ways fathers hold their children up throughout their lives? Both show the beauty of a father/child relationship.

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