Inuit relationships to water—to oceans, inland lakes and rivers—has been one of storytelling and survival for generations. In this Portfolio, the IAQ investigates these links with the shore, the surface and the deep and what those spaces mean for everything from the spiritual lives of Inuit to food harvesting practices.
Far beneath the reach of hunters in their vessels, the deep has long shaped the stories and oral traditions of Inuit, accessible perhaps only by shamans tasked with descending into the realm of Sedna to comb her long hair on the occasions that it becomes tangled. The home of beings with whom Inuit have shared long standing relationships— such as seals, whales and fish—the dark, icy depths of the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans represent a vital source of nourishment and resources in the form of meat, mattak, skins for clothing and oil to provide light and warmth through the night. Continually reimagined through traditional and contemporary storytelling, the world beneath the surface is brought to life in art across all media employed by Inuit artists, from pencil drawings of dancing schools of fish to carved whale pods that seem to hang in suspended animation.
Quvianaqtuk Pudlat Untitled (2019) Coloured pencil and ink 58.4 × 75.9 cm REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS
Davidialuk Alasua Amittu Sedna Caught in a Net (n.d.) Stone 11 × 26.5 × 4 cm COURTESY WADDINGTON’S
Jobie Crow Mussels and Sea Urchin on a Rock (c. 1975) Stone 13 × 16 × 25 cm COURTESY ART GALLERY OF GUELPH
Joel Maniapik The Plentiful Sea (2002) Stencil 50 × 62 cm COURTESY DAVIC GALLERY OF NATIVE CANADIAN ARTS
John Kavik Untitled (Many Fish) (1980) Coloured pencil 30.5 × 45.7 cm COURTESY EXPANDINGINUIT.COM
This Feature was originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly.
See the Shore
See the Surface