Teachers Lesson Plans

Contemporary Inuit Sculpture

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Karoo Ashevak, Coming and Going of the Shaman, 1973, and Judas Ullulaq, Inukpajuaq (Giant), 1987

Shamans have always been a favourite subject of Inuit artists. The two works that follow have two subjects in common: shamans and transformation. In Coming and Going of the Shaman, Karoo Ashevak presents a very specific aspect of the transformation. At first sight, this appears to be an image of a woman with her child concealed in her amauti, but upon closer examination, the details of the shaman's transformation become clearer. One indication that there are two entities in this unique body is the size of the hands and the heads. The other is the porosity of the whalebone used to depict the "old" shaman; it implies deterioration. Inukpajuaq, Judas Ullulaq's giant, is a shaman transforming into an animal. Ashevak and Ullulaq both depict the moment when two beings are visible and the symbiosis between those beings. In Ullulaq's work, the female shaman and the animal are back-to-back in the same body, and are joined by the massive horns of the musk-ox. The differences in the shape of the eyes and the distortion of the mouth indicate the suffering a shaman must endure when transforming into a musk-ox.