Internationally known for the quality of their work and their creativity, the stone carvers of Nunavik use their dexterity and imagination to recount tales, whether from the past or the present, about nature, daily life or the supernatural.
From the time of the Dorsets, the people of Nunavik have skilfully crafted material into objects such as harpoon heads, needles, oil lamps and snow knives that are sometimes decorated with geometric motifs or scenes of daily life. They also sculpted figurines in the shape of humans, animals and mythical beings.
With the arrival of Europeans, objects began to be made specifically for trade. Craftspeople produced ivory miniatures that could adorn firearms, as well as tools and musical instruments. Over the course of the 20th century, these pieces were made in increasing numbers, while the array of traditional tools began to be complemented by modern machinery, when necessary.
Today, Nunavik artists use minerals such as soapstone, alabaster, argillite and serpentine, as well as organic material like antler, ivory, bone, leather and animal fur.
Evoking distant horizons, traditions and myths, this gallery presents a selection of works by artists from diverse communities.
«A long time ago, there existed tiny beings. One of them, Kautjajuapik, became very big. He was treated badly by his family. His clothes tore when he became so big. He murdered many except for two women that would look out for him. Kautjajuapik's relatives would say that he is only good to throw out to the polar bears. So when a polar bear arrived unexpectedly, he killed everyone instead of being thrown out as food.» (artist's text)
«Legends have it that animals used to become half humans and half animals. Like wolves prey on caribou and other animals to survive, this sculpture is an image of such half human and half animal. Other legends also have been told like this one.» (artist's text)
«Those two, a man and a woman, represent this story. It used to be and still is today that when a man wants to marry a woman and asks for her hand in marriage, sometimes she will not accept his proposal and sometimes, like here, this woman does not really want this man and is relunctant. That is the meaning of this. This woman is resisting a little this man because it is her first time being approached and touched physically. Thank you if you understood.» (artist's text)
«This carving is based on a true story told by Mosusie Naluiyuk of Salluit.
Qumaq Soasie and Family, two wives and two sons from Putjunait (Mansel Island) wanted to cross towards inland to the Hudson's Bay coast, Quebec, in mid-winter. They left fleeing from the people living on the island who started a religion. That religion had started well but had gone bad because someone was murdered. They got scared for their safety and went on the sea ice to cross.
On their way, they spent the night in a small igloo and the ice broke. So they were floating on a piece of ice in the open water with their igloo. When the ice broke he got separated from one of his wives and never saw her again. His sons Peter Nowya and the younger son Thomasi Mangiok were quite young but remember losing their mother.
Qumaq's other wife took care of the two young boys while on the sea. A long time went by. Then Qunaq saw land while his wife and two sons were still inside the igloo. Qumaq of great joy started to drum dance. Behind their igloo was a walrus and a polar bear. Even the polar bear was in great joy as Qumaq sang "Aija! What joy ijaa! We will go on the land!".» (artist's text)
«This carving is a legend story about Sikuliaksiujuittuq, the one who can never go on fresh sea ice. Because he was exceptionally large he could only be on solid ice. He would bully normal sized men checking the sleeves of their parka to see if they had stains. It meant that they had caught seal. So he would wait on the solid ice to snatch the seals from the hunters.» (artist's text)