• Feature

6+ Inuit Seasons in 1 Poem and 1 Sculpture

Sculpting the Verse

Apr 09, 2021
by Napatsi Folger

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.
While there are many examples of translated poetry available to an English-speaking audience, it is rare to see an Inuktitut poem published alone with no translated text. The poems featured on the following pages have previously been translated, sometimes more than once, into English. As a result, we have decided to showcase each exclusively in modern Inuktitut, in part to bring them back full circle and to allow the carvings to act as guides for the reader.

The carvings in this Portfolio were painstakingly chosen because each communicates ideas and imagery that exceeds its physical form while evoking the emotions relayed within their accompanying poems. The flowing language of these poems demonstrates their strength as personal and communal art. They were written or spoken with the express purpose of sharing deep feelings.

The challenge in determining these pairings lay in finding physical manifestations of the primary themes these poems follow and the deep connection between their speakers and the land and water that sustain Inuit. Inuit carvings in particular are often depictions of action, whether they be animals, hunters or mothers amaaqing their round-faced babies. Inuit poetry, in contrast, often expresses ideas bigger and more abstract than what can easily be translated into a physical form. This collection of art reveals another layer of the brilliance of Inuit artistry, both as oral storytellers and as visual artists able to embody the most abstract ideas in elegant physical sculptures.

ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᑦ ᐱᓪᓚᕆᐅᑎᒋᔪᑦ ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᒐᖏᑦᑎᑐᑦ, ᑖᓐᓇ ᐱᓕᕆᐊᒃᓴᖅ ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᓂᖃᖅᐳᖅ ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᐅᓂᒃᑲᐅᓯᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᐊᔾᔨᖃᖅᖢᑎᒃ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᓂᒃ, ᑖᒃᑯᐊ ᓂᕈᐊᖅᑕᐅᓚᐅᖅᑐᑦ ᖃᓄᖅ ᑕᒪᒃᑯᐊ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᑦ ᐃᒃᐱᒋᑦᑎᐊᕆᐊᖃᕐᓂᑦᑎᓐᓂᒃ. ᑕᐃᒪᓕ ᐅᖃᐅᓰᑦ ᐊᔾᔨᒌᖏᑦᑐᑦ ᖃᓪᓗᓈᑎᑑᓕᖅᑎᑕᐅᖃᑦᑕᕐᒪᑕ, ᑭᓯᐊᓂᓕ ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᑦ ᑕᐃᒪᓐᓇ ᑎᑎᕋᖅᑕᐅᓯᒪᔪᑦ ᖃᓪᓗᓈᑎᑑᓕᖅᑎᑕᐅᕙᖏᑦᑐᑦ. ᑕᐃᒪᓕ ᑕᕝᕙᓂ ᑎᑎᕋᖅᓯᒪᔪᓂᒃ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᖅ ᖃᓪᓗᓈᑎᑑᓕᖅᑎᑕᐅᓚᐅᖅᐳᑦ, ᐃᓛᓐᓂᒃᑯᑦ ᐊᑕᐅᓯᐊᖏᖢᑎᒃ, ᖃᓪᓗᓈᑎᑑᓕᖅᑎᑕᐅᓯᒪᔪᑦ. ᑕᐃᒪᓕ ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᑎᑦᑎᓇᓱᓕᖅᐳᒍᑦ ᑕᒪᐃᓐᓂᒃ ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑑᓕᖅᑎᑕᐅᓯᒪᔪᓂᒃ, ᐅᑎᖅᑎᑦᑎᓇᓱᒃᖢᑕ ᑕᒪᒃᑯᐊ ᑐᑭᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᖅᓯᒪᔪᓄᑦ ᑕᑯᔭᐅᖃᑦᑕᕐᓂᐊᕐᒪᑕ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᓂ ᐅᖃᓕᒫᖅᑐᓄᑦ. ᑕᒪᒃᑯᐊ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᖅᓯᒪᔪᑦ ᑕᕝᕙᓂ ᐱᓕᕆᐊᖑᔪᒥᑦ ᐊᒃᓱᕈᒻᒪᕆᒃᖢᑎᒃ ᓂᕈᐊᖅᑕᐅᓚᐅᖅᑐᑦ ᐱᔾᔪᑎᒋᓪᓗᒍ ᐊᑐᓂ ᐅᖃᐅᓯᖃᕐᒪᑕ ᐃᓱᒪᒋᔭᐅᔪᓂᒃ ᐱᑕᖃᓕᓲᖑᓪᓗᑎᒃ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᑎᒍᑦ. ᑕᒪᒃᑯᐊ ᐅᖃᐅᓰᑦ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᑎᒍᑦ ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᓂᖃᖅᐳᑦ ᓴᖏᓂᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᓲᕐᓗ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᑎᑐᑦ. ᑎᑎᕋᖅᑕᐅᓚᐅᖅᓯᒪᕗᑦ ᐅᕝᕙᓘᓐᓃᑦ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑕᐅᓪᓗᑎᒃ ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᑎᑦᑎᓇᓱᒃᓗᑎᒃ ᐃᒃᐱᒋᒻᒪᕆᒃᑕᖏᓐᓂᒃ. ᐊᒃᓱᕈᕈᑕᐅᓚᐅᖅᑐᕐᓕ ᑕᒪᒃᑯᐊ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᑦ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᒐᐃᓪᓗ ᐃᓚᒌᓕᖅᑎᑕᐅᓇᓱᒃᖢᑎᒃ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᓂᖃᒻᒪᕆᖕᒪᑕ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᒧᑦ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓄᓇᒧᑦ ᐃᒪᕐᒧᓪᓗ ᐃᓄᒃᓄᑦ ᐊᑐᖅᑕᐅᒻᒪᕆᒃᑐᓂᒃ. ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᖅᐸᒃᑕᖏᑦ ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᓂᖃᓲᖑᕗᑦ ᐱᓕᕆᖑᐊᖅᖢᑎᒃ, ᓱᕐᓗ ᓂᕐᔪᑎᒍᐊᑦ, ᐊᖑᓇᓱᖑᐊᖅᑐᑦ ᐅᕝᕙᓘᓐᓃᑦ ᐊᕐᓇᐃᑦ ᐊᒫᖑᐊᖅᑐᑦ ᕿᑐᕐᖓᑯᓗᖕᒥᓂᒃ. ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᖏᑦ, ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᓂᖃᓲᖑᕗᑦ ᐊᖏᓂᖅᓴᐅᔪᓂᒃ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᑐᑭᓕᐅᕈᓐᓇᖏᖢᑎᒍᑦ ᖃᓄᖅ ᑐᑭᖃᓪᓚᕆᖕᒪᖔᑕ. ᑖᒃᑯᐊ ᑲᑎᖅᓱᖅᑕᐅᓯᒪᔪᑦ ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᓂᖃᕆᕗᑦ ᐃᓄᐃᑦ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᖅᑎᒻᒪᕆᐅᓂᖏᓐᓂᒃ, ᑕᒪᑮᖑᓪᓗᑎᒃ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᖅᑐᐊᕈᓐᓇᕐᓂᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᑲᒻᒪᕆᐅᓂᖏᓐᓂᒃ.


Michael Massie
Creativity of the Spirit: Distant Relations (c. 2013) Stone, bone, ebony and brass 22.9 x 20.3 x 12.7 cm
ᒪᐃᑯᓪ ᒫᓯ ᑑᕐᖓᕐᒧᑦ ᐋᖅᑭᒃᑕᐅᔪᖅ: ᐃᓚᒌᒃᑐᑦ (2013) ᐅᒃᑯᓯᒃᓴᖅ, ᓴᐅᓂᖅ, ᕿᔪᒃ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓴᕕᕋᔭᒃ 22.9 × 20.3 × 12.7 ᓴᓐᑕᒦᑕ ᑐᓂᔭᐅᔪᖅ ᐅᑯᓇᖓᑦ WADDINGTON’S AUCTIONEERS AND APPRAISERS, ᑐᕌᓐᑐ 

ᐊᑯᑦᑐᔫᒃ (ᐅᓪᓗᕆᐊᒃ ᐅᐱᕐᖓᒃᓵᒥ)
ᐃᙱᖅᑐᖅ ᒫᑕ ᓇᓱᒃ

Akuttujuuk (Stars that Herald Spring)
Sung by Martha Nasook

ᐊᑯᑦᑐᔫᒃ! ᓴᖅᑭᒋᔅᓯᒃ!
ᐃᓅᒐᒪ ᓱᓕ

There is so much joy in anticipation that the excitement of things to come is sometimes even more delightful than the actual event. In this short song, stars are harbingers of the longer, brighter days of spring. For Inuit, seasons don’t follow the typical four-season cycle, but instead follow weather and animal migration patterns with regional variation (usually six seasons, sometimes more). The period after the coldest days of winter brings better hunting and warmer days spent basking in the sunlight that reflects off the bright gleaming snow.

In the accompanying carving, Michael Massie, CM, RCA, combines stone, bone, ebony and brass to great effect and captures the wonder that humans gazing into the heavens have felt for millennia. The shine of the brass in the right light twinkles like stars, while the figure’s large round eyes take in the grandeur of the sky. One can imagine the light specks of green in the dark stone as the very constellations of which the singer speaks.


ᖁᕕᐊᓇᒻᒪᕆᒃᐳᖅ ᐱᓕᕆᖃᑕᐅᓪᓗᓂ ᑕᒪᒃᑯᐊ ᖁᕕᐊᓇᖅᑐᑦ ᑎᑭᓐᓂᐊᕐᓂᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᑭᓯᐊᓂᓕ ᖁᕕᐊᓇᒃᑲᓐᓂᒪᕆᒃᑐᖅ ᐱᓕᕆᖃᑎᒌᒃᖢᓂ ᑕᕝᕙᓂ ᓇᐃᑦᑐᑯᓗᖕᒥᑦ ᐃᖏᐅᓯᕐᒥᒃ ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᑎᑦᑎᕗᑦ, ᐊᑯᓂᐅᓂᖅᓴᒥᒃ ᐅᓪᓘᓂᐊᖅᑐᓂᒃ ᐅᐱᕐᒑᒃᑯᑦ. ᐃᓄᖕᓄᓪᓕ ᑕᒪᒃᑯᐊ ᑕᓪᓕᒪᐅᔪᑦ ᐊᓯᔾᔨᓲᖑᔪᑦ ᓲᕐᓗ ᐊᕐᕌᒍᒥᑦ ᐅᑭᐅᖅ, ᐅᐱᕐᖓᒃᓵᖅ, ᐊᐅᔭᖅ, ᐅᑭᐊᒃᓵᓯ, ᒪᓕᓲᖑᖏᒻᒪᑕ ᑭᓯᐊᓂᓕ ᒪᓕᓲᖑᔪᑦ ᓯᓚ ᖃᓄᐃᓐᓂᐊᕐᓂᖓᓂᒃ, ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓂᕐᔪᑏᑦ ᐃᖏᕐᕋᓂᐊᕐᓂᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᓇᒧᖓᓂᐊᕐᓂᖏᓐᓂᒡᓗ (ᑕᐃᒪᓕ ᒪᓕᓲᖑᕗᑦ ᐃᒻᒪᖄ 6-ᓄᑦ ᐅᕝᕙᓘᓐᓃᑦ ᐊᒥᓲᓂᖅᓴᓄᑦ). ᑕᐃᒪᓕ ᐅᑭᐅᒃᑯᑦ ᓂᒡᓚᓱᒻᒪᕆᓚᐅᖅᑎᓪᓗᒍ ᖁᕕᐊᓱᓲᖑᕗᑦ ᐅᖅᑰᓯᕙᓪᓕᐊᓂᐊᕐᓂᖓᓂᒃ ᐊᖑᓇᓱᒍᓐᓇᑦᑎᐊᕐᓂᐊᕐᓂᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᐅᖅᑰᓯᕙᓪᓕᐊᓂᐊᕐᓂᖓᓂᒃ ᓯᕿᓂᕐᒧᓪᓗ ᐆᓇᖅᑐᒧᑦ ᐃᒃᐱᒍᓱᑦᑎᐊᕐᓗᑎᒃ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᐊᐳᑎᒧᑦ ᐊᐅᒃᐸᓪᓕᐊᔾᔪᑕᐅᓂᐊᖅᖢᓂ. ᐃᓚᒋᔭᐅᓪᓗᑎᒃ ᑕᒪᒃᑯᓂᖓ ᓴᓇᖑᐊᓂᒃ, ᒪᐃᑯ ᒫᓯ, ᑲᑎᖅᓱᐃᓯᒪᕗᖅ ᐅᔭᖅᑲᓂᒃ, ᓴᐅᓂᕐᓂᒃ, ᕿᔪᖕᓂᒃ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓴᕕᕋᔭᖕᓂᒃ ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᑎᑦᑎᓇᓱᒃᖢᓂ ᖃᓄᖅ ᐃᓄᓕᒫᑦᑎᐊᑦ ᑕᑯᖃᑦᑕᖅᑕᖏᓐᓂᒃ ᐅᑭᐅᓂᒃ ᐊᒥᓱᒻᒪᕆᐊᓗᖕᓂᒃ. ᑕᒪᒃᑯᐊ ᓴᕕᕋᔭᐃᑦ ᓯᕿᓂᕐᒧᑦ ᖃᐅᒻᒪᒃᑎᑕᐅᒑᖓᑕ ᕿᓪᓕᖅᓯᓲᖑᕗᑦ ᓲᕐᓗ ᐅᓪᓗᕆᐊᑎᑐᑦ, ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᑕᒪᒃᑯᐊ ᐃᓄᖑᐊᑦ ᐃᔨᖏ ᑕᐅᑐᖑᐊᖅᖢᑎᒃ ᑕᑉᐸᐅᖓ ᕿᓚᖕᒧᑦ.

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. 


This series was made possible with the generous support of the Ontario Arts Council.