Sculpture Item Number: Na1366 from the MOA: University of British Columbia


Naked male figure is bent over with feet braced and one hand in front pulling up on a piece of blubber. His other arm holds a second piece of blubber on his shoulder. The blubber pieces are thick and have dash-lines overall. Figure's head has parted hair with ragged hairline, downturned oval eyes, short nose, open mouth with tongue. Moustache and eyebrows are indicated. Toes and genitals, including pubic hair are also shown. Lighter base slopes down at back. Inscriptions on bottom read 'C 77 Levi Alasuak 52280'.

History Of Use

Contemporary Inuit sculpture produced for the art market began in the 1950's in response to a very successful sale, by the Canadian Handicraft Guild in Montreal in 1949, of pieces collected by James A. Houston on the east coast of Hudson Bay. The Inuit co-operatives developed by 1959 and a central marketing agency was established in 1965. Carving continues to be a major source of income in the Eastern Canadian Arctic, an area which has undergone major social and economic changes, especially since World War II. There has been a steady growth in permanent settlements during the last half of this century which has made large scale carving in stone feasible. Traditionally, carving materials were mainly bone, antler, and ivory, because of their light weight, strength, and durability. Heavier and more fragile stone was used primarily for lamps and cooking vessels. Although Inuit sculpture is often referred to as 'soapstone' sculpture, in fact, less than half of the stone used is soapstone (a high-grade talc or steatite). Other stones commonly used include serpentine, olivine, periodite, chrysolite, and others. In the early years of the industry it was possible to identify where a carving came from by the specific type of stone used, however, in recent years stone is traded on a wider, regional basis. Whale bone, antler, walrus tusk ivory, and a variety of other materials are also used by Inuit carvers. Themes in Inuit sculpture are based on personal experiences and beliefs, derive from oral traditions, mythology, as well as from narrative and figurative themes depicting arctic fauna and scenes of traditional Inuit life. Regional, community, and individual styles are also apparent.

Cultural Context

contemporary art


Balshine family collection.