• Feature

Inuit Poetry and Ceramics that Contemplate Life and Nature

Sculpting the Verse

Apr 16, 2021
by Napatsi Folger

ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᑦ ᐱᓪᓚᕆᐅᑎᒋᔪᑦ ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᒐᖏᑦᑎᑐᑦ, ᑖᓐᓇ ᐱᓕᕆᐊᒃᓴᖅ ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᓂᖃᖅᐳᖅ ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᐅᓂᒃᑲᐅᓯᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᐊᔾᔨᖃᖅᖢᑎᒃ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᓂᒃ, ᑖᒃᑯᐊ ᓂᕈᐊᖅᑕᐅᓚᐅᖅᑐᑦ ᖃᓄᖅ ᑕᒪᒃᑯᐊ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᑦ ᐃᒃᐱᒋᑦᑎᐊᕆᐊᖃᕐᓂᑦᑎᓐᓂᒃ.

In recognition of storytelling as an integral part of Inuit art, this Portfolio features pairings of Inuktitut poems with stone sculptures, chosen to encapsulate the feeling of each poem.


ᐱᓯᖓ ᑎᒎᓪᓕᒐᐅᑉ
Untitled I
Attributed to Tegoodligak

ᐊᐃ ᐊᐃ
ᐃᖅᑲᐅᒪᕙᒃᑲ ᐊᑐᖅᓯᒪᔭᒃᑲ
ᐊᓄᕆᕐᒥ ᖃᔭᒐ ᑎᒃᑕᐅᕗᖅ
ᓇᖏᐊᕐᓇᖅᑐᒦᑦᑐᒋᓕᖅᐳᖓ
ᑲᑉᐱᐊᓱᒃᐳᖓ
ᑕᒪᒃᑯᐊ ᒥᑭᔫᒐᓗᐊᑦ ᐊᖏᓪᓕᖕᒪᑕ
ᐱᒻᒪᕆᐅᔪᑦ
ᐱᓇᓱᐊᖅᐸᓚᐅᖅᑕᒃᑲ
ᑭᓯᐊᓂᓕ ᐊᑕᐅᓯᖅ ᐱᒻᒪᕆᐅᔪᖅ
ᑖᓐᓇᑐᐊᖅ
ᐃᓅᓗᓂ ᓱᓕ ᐅᓪᓗᖅᑐᓯᓕᖅᑐᖅ ᑕᑯᓗᒍ
ᓯᓚᕐᔪᐊᖅ ᖃᐅᒪᓕᖅᑎᓪᓗᒍ


AupilardjukPierreNapayokLeoMessagesForTheAfterlife

Pierre Aupilardjuk
and Leo Napayok Messages for the Afterlife (c. 2014) Ceramic 61 x 33 x 33 cm
COURTESY ART GALLERY OF BURLINGTONᐱᐊᕆ ᐊᐅᐱᓛᕐᔪᒃ + ᓕᐅ ᓇᐸᔪᖅ ᐅᖃᐅᓯᐅᔪᖅ ᑐᖁᓚᐅᖅᖢᓂ ᐃᓅᓂᖅ (2014) ᒪᕋᖅ 61 x 33 x 33 ᓴᓐᑕᒦᑕ ᑐᓂᔭᐅᔪᖅ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᕐᕕᖕᒥᑦ ᐴᓕᖕᑕᓐᒥᑦ


When I think of my childhood playing on the tundra, there is always wind in my memories. This poem flows as though carried on an arctic breeze and through the hair of a pensive hunter. I can’t help but think how much waiting and contemplating Inuit hunters must do in their daily search for, as the writer says, “all the vital things.” The words here may be rarely spoken, but resonate deeply with anyone who has ever felt the northwinds on their cheeks and been awed by its power. No matter how much time one spends on the land or away from it, the vastness of the tundra is breathtaking, and Tegoodligak expresses that feeling with precision. His language calls to mind the emotional tone of American poet Wallace Stevens. Expressing a kind of deep knowledge of the world that is both all around us and simultaneously difficult to grasp.  

Looking at Pierre Aupilardjuk and Leo Napayok’s collaboration Messages for the Afterlife, it is easy to see the link between the sculpture and the poem. The details in this upturned face reflect the knowledge of the one great thing of which the poem speaks; seeing life as a gift and appreciating it on a grander scale than just one’s individual experiences and the time it takes to come to understand that knowledge. The many faces on the body of this figure have the potential to crowd the image, yet he still holds an expression of knowing serenity, which is precisely evoked when looking at this piece.  

ᐃᖅᑲᐅᒪᓪᓗᖓ ᓄᑕᕋᐅᑎᓪᓗᖓ, ᓯᓚᒥᑦ ᐱᖑᐊᖅᑎᓪᓗᖓ, ᐊᓄᕌᖏᓐᓇᐅᔭᓚᐅᖅᐳᖅ. ᑖᓐᓇ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᖅ ᑕᐃᒪᓐᓇ ᐊᓄᕆᑐᑦ ᐱᓯᒪᕗᖅ ᓲᕐᓗ ᐅᑭᐅᖅᑕᖅᑑᑉ ᐊᓄᕆᖓ ᐊᖑᓇᓱᒃᑎᐅᓪᓗ ᓄᔭᖓᓂᒃ ᐊᐅᓚᑎᑦᑎᓪᓗᓂ. ᐃᓱᒪᓲᖑᔪᖓ ᖃᓄᖅ ᐊᑯᓂᐅᑎᒋᔪᖅ ᐅᑕᖅᑭᖃᑦᑕᕐᓂᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᐊᖑᓇᓱᒃᑏᑦ ᕿᓂᖅᖢᑎᒃ ᓂᕐᔪᑎᓂᒃ ᐊᖑᓂᐊᖅᑕᖏᓂᒃ, ᑕᐃᒪᓕ ᑖᓐᓇ ᑎᑎᕋᖅᑐᖅ ᐅᖃᓚᐅᖅᐳᖅ, “ᑕᐃᒪᓐᓇ ᐱᕐᔪᐊᖏᓐᓇᐅᔭᖅᐳᒍᑦ.” ᐅᖃᓪᓚᖃᑦᑕᖏᒃᑲᓗᐊᖅᖢᑎᒃ, ᑭᓯᐊᓂᓕ ᑭᒃᑯᑐᐃᓐᓇᕐᓄᑦ ᐃᒃᐱᒍᓱᓚᐅᖅᓯᒪᔪᓄᑦ ᐊᓄᕆᒥᒃ ᐅᓗᐊᖏᑦᑎᒍᑦ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓴᖏᓂᖓᓂᒃ ᖃᐅᔨᓪᓗᑎᒃ. ᓄᓇᒦᒃᑲᓗᐊᖅᖢᑎᒃ ᐅᕝᕙᓘᓐᓃᑦ ᐅᖓᓯᒋᔮᓂᒃᑲᓗᐊᖅᖢᑎᒃ, ᑕᒪᓐᓇ ᓄᓇ ᐊᖏᑎᒋᓂᖓᓂᒃ ᐅᐱᒍᓱᓲᖑᕗᑦ, ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᑕᐃᒪ ᑎᒍᓕᒐᐅᑉ ᑕᒪᓐᓇ ᓄᓇ ᐅᖃᐅᓯᕆᑦᑎᐊᓚᐅᖅᑕᖓ. ᐅᖃᐅᓯᕆᔭᖓ ᐊᔾᔨᓯᔾᔪᑎᒋᓚᐅᖅᐸᕋ ᐊᒥᐊᓕᑲᒥᐅᑕᒧᑦ ᕗᐊᓚᔅ ᔅᑏᕕᓐᔅᒧᑦ. ᐅᖃᓯᖃᕐᓂᖅ ᖃᐅᔨᒪᓂᖃᑦᑎᐊᕐᓂᕐᒥᒃ ᓄᓇᕐᔪᐊᓕᒫᒥᑦ ᑕᒪᑦᑕᑦᑎᐊᖅ ᐅᕙᑦᑎᓐᓄᓕᒫᖅ ᐊᔪᕐᓇᖅᑐᖅᓯᐅᕐᓇᖅᖢᓂᓗ ᑐᑭᓯᓇᓱᒋᐊᒃᓴᖅ. ᑕᐅᑐᒃᖢᒍ ᐱᐊᕆ ᐊᐅᐱᓛᕐᔪᑉ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓕᐅ ᓇᐸᔫᑉ ᖃᑐᔾᔨᖃᑎᒌᒃᖢᑎᒃ ᑐᓴᖅᑎᑦᑎᔾᔪᑎᖏᑦ ᑐᖁᓚᐅᖅᖢᓂ ᐃᓅᓂᕐᒥᒃ (2014), ᐊᔪᕐᓇᖏᑦᑐᑯᓘᕗᖅ ᑕᑯᓪᓗᓂ ᑕᒪᒃᑯᓂᖓ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᓂᒃ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᓂᒃ ᖃᓄᖅ ᑲᑎᓯᒪᓂᖏᓐᓂᒃ. ᑕᕝᕙᓂ ᑮᓇᖑᐊᕐᒥᑦ ᖁᒻᒧᑦ ᕿᕕᐊᖓᖑᐊᖅᖢᓂ ᑐᑭᖃᖅᐳᖅ ᖃᐅᔨᒪᑦᑎᐊᕐᓂᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᐊᔪᖏᑦᑐᒻᒪᕆᐊᓗᖕᒥᒃ ᑖᔅᓱᒪ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᑉ ᐅᖃᐅᓯᕆᔭᖓᓂᒃ; ᑕᑯᓪᓗᓂ ᐃᓅᓯᑦᑎᓐᓂᒃ ᑐᓐᓂᖁᓯᐊᑦᑎᓐᓂᒃ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᐅᐱᒋᒻᒪᕆᒃᖢᒍ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᑐᑭᓯᓇᓱᒃᖢᒍ ᑕᒪᑐᒥᖓ ᖃᐅᔨᒪᑦᑎᐊᕐᓂᕐᒥᒃ. ᐊᒥᓱᑦ ᑮᓇᐃᑦ ᑎᒥᒦᑦᑐᑦ ᐊᒥᓱᐊᓗᖕᓄᑦ ᐃᓄᖕᓄᑦ ᐃᒃᐱᒋᔭᐅᖃᑦᑕᕐᓂᐊᖅᑐᖅ, ᑭᓯᐊᓂᓕ ᑖᓐᓇ ᐃᓄᖑᐊᖅ ᒥ ᖃᐅᔨᒪᓂᒻᒪᕆᐊᓗᖕᒥᒃ.


Find more poetry and sculpture pairings:

Michael Massie and Martha Nasook


This Feature was first published in the Spring 2021 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly.

ᐃᓕᓴᐱ ᖁᓚᐅᑦ ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑑᓕᖅᑎᑕᖓ ᖃᓪᓗᓈᑎᑐᓕᖅᑎᑕᐅᔪᖅ ᔭᐃᐱᑎ ᐊᕐᓇᑲᒃᒧᑦ ᖃᓪᓗᓈᑎᑑᓕᖅᑎᑕᐅᔪᖅ ᐋᖅᑭᒃᓱᖅᑕᐅᔪᑦ ᒪᓂᑲ ᐃᑦᑐᒃᓵᕐᔪᐊᕐᒧᑦ

Translation by Elizabeth Qulaut. Poems translated by Jaypeetee Arnakak. Translations edited by Monica Ittusardjuat.