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Kitikmeot (Central Arctic) Region

Akviligjuaq (Pelly Bay)

Akviligjuaq (Pelly Bay) Catholic church

Franz Van de Velde, O.M.I. (1909-2002)

In comparison to many other communities, Akviligjuaq was comparatively isolated until 1955 when a Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, a system of radar stations in the high arctic, was put in place. Further exposure to the outside world came with the development of an airstrip in 1968.

Akviligjuaq, which means "place with lots of bowhead whales" was once part of the bowhead whales’ migration route. Following a long cessation of the migration, residents of Akviligjuaq were recently thrilled to see the return of the bowheads.

In addition to ivory, artists of Akviligjuaq use antler in their work. Under the influence of missionary Father Franz van de Vel through 1945 to 1961, much of the sculpture created was miniature – or “small world”.

Peripatetic Nick Sikkuark’s sculpture work in ivory and antler and his drawings reflect a typical Keewatin view of life in which “humour and pain are interwoven”.

Nick Sikkuark (1943-)

Nick Sikkuark (1943-)

Augustin Anaittuq (1935-)

Netsilik (Eastern Kitikmeot and part of Nunavut) Region

The Netsilik area is referred to as ‘the Eastern Arctic’, northwest of Hudson’s Bay around Pelly Bay in the Keewatin District.

The Netsilik Inuit or Netsilingmiut were first introduced to western culture with the arrival of European whalers in the 1880s, followed by the establishment of a Hudson’s Bay Company post on King William Island, the arrival of missionaries and visit from Greenlandic explorer Knud Rasmussen by the 1920s. Netsilingmiut means "people of the place where there is seal" which likely derives from the name of Netsilik (Seal) Lake on Boothia Peninsula.

The obvious material of choice for this area is whalebone. The artists produce art that portrays their environment as a “perilous world controlled by unreliable supernatural beings” – in addition to the real dangers of living in the Arctic, according to Hessel. Fittingly, sculptures of shamans, the spirit world and mythological subjects are typical for this community.

King William Island, west of Gjoa Haven

King William Island
Inuit or a Franklin Expedition member?

King William Island

Greenlandic explorer Knud Rasmussen

Taloyoak (Spence Bay)

The community of Taloyoak (formerly Spence Bay) is located high above the Arctic Circle on the Boothia Peninsula in the heart of the Northwest Passage. Taloyoak is the northernmost community on the Canadian mainland at 69° 32′ north latitude.

Taloyoak means "caribou blind" in Inuktitut. Inuit hunters built the blinds, made from walls of rocks shaped in a V, caribou were chased into the V shape of the blind so hunters hidden behind the walls of rocks could use bows and arrows to kill the caribou. In the summer the rock walls can be still seen from the edge of town.

Arctic explorer John Ross aboard Victory is stopped by ice, 1829

Sir John Ross (177-1856)
(Scottish rear admiral and arctic explorer)

Taloyoak (Arctic Bay)

Exposure to ‘qallunaaq’ dates back to Arctic explorer John Ross who wintered in the Taloyoak area from 1829-33. He named the peninsula Boothia after Felix Booth, a wealthy London distiller who financed his expedition. Interaction in the 20th century was more official – and more intrusive. In 1934, the Hudson’s Bay Company in partnership with the Department of the Interior (DI) began the first official relocation experiment, which was to result in a complex, unsettling series of moves of Inuit from as far away as Cape Dorset, and eventually led to the present community of Taloyoak.

Whalebone sculpture was first created in the Taloyoak area in the late 1960s, although in recent years stone has replaced whalebone as a sculpting material.

Born in 1940 in an encampment near Taloyoak, Karoo Ashevak (1940–1974) is one of the Arctic’s most famous sculptors. Like many Inuit artists, Ashevak began his art career through a government-initiated arts and crafts program. However, it is his sculpture prolifically created in the last four years of his short life that is best known and has influenced an entire generation of artists. Working primarily in whalebone, he also incorporated stone, ivory, antler and baleen as inlaid or additional detail. While the 1973 exhibition at the American Indian Arts Centre in New York City marked the height of his career, the 1994 exhibition of his work at the National Gallery in Ottawa signifies the continuing importance of his work in the context of contemporary Canadian art.

Karoo Ashevak (1940-1974)

Karoo Ashevak (1940-1974)

Karoo Ashevak (1940-1974)

Karoo Ashevak (1940-1974)

Karoo Ashevak (1940-1974)

Karoo Ashevak collecting whalebone
at Fort Ross, c.1972

The work of Karoo’s uncle, Charlie Ugyuk (1931-1998), is another example of the Taloyoak style.

Charlie Ugyuk (1931-1998)

Charlie Ugyuk (1931-1998)

Charlie Ugyuk (1931-1998)

Charlie Ugyuk (1931-1998)

Taloyoak is also known for its famous packing-dolls made from duffle material. The dolls that represent various animal species are highly prized by collectors worldwide.

A Taloyoak (Spence Bay) packing doll

Ursuqtuq (Gjoa Haven)

Gjoa Haven

Gjoa Haven

Ursuqtuq is the principle settlement on King William Island, located southwest of Spence Bay.

Ursuqtuq means "lots of fat" in Inuktitut, referring to the abundance of blubbery sea mammals in the nearby waters. The name Gjøa Haven is Norwegian for "Gjøa’s Harbour", and was named by polar explorer Roald Amundsen after his ship Gjøa. Amundsen was the first to navigate the Northwest Passage in the early 1900s. He spent two years iced in on King William Island in what he called “the finest little harbour in the world.”

Like other communities in the Kitikmeot region the art of Ursuqtuq demonstrates spiritual or psychological angst – balanced with humour. This contrast is also seen in the mix of materials used, including: stone (hard, green or black), whalebone, ivory, and musk ox horn. Ursuqtuq is a community with strong Netsilik values and is home to Inuit from other communities, including Karoo Ashevak’s uncle Judas Ullulaq and Nelson Takkiruq.

While inspired by his older brother Charlie Ugyuk’s sculpture, Judas Ullulaq (1937-1999) was admired and respected for creating challenging and creative works. Ullulaq sculpted intricately detailed works of people, shamanic characters and various animals from whalebone and stone, accented with inlaid bone and antler features.

Roald Amundsen, here with Gjøa’s second mate
Helmer Hanssen, took to wearing a reindeer
fur anorak. "Am always warm, without sweating,"
he noted in his diary

Roald Amundsen¬ís ship Gjøa

Gjøa at Gjoa Haven

Judas Ullulaq (1937-1998)

Judas Ullulaq (1937-1998)

Judas Ullulaq (1937-1998)

Qikiqtarjuaq (Broughton Island)

Qikiqtarjuaq (Broughton Island)

Located just off the east coast of Baffin Island facing Greenland, Qikiqtarjuaq is only 16 kilometres long and 12 kilometres wide. It sits about 100 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle not far from the northern edge of Auyuittuq National Park. Despite its small size, Qikiqtarjuaq is Inuktitut for "big island". Close to the Penny Ice Cap (a 6,000 square kilometre remnant of the last ice age) and the many icebergs resulting from Penny, Qikiqtarjuaq is often called "the iceberg capital of the North". The surrounding waters are home to walruses, polar bears, seals, narwhals, belugas, and occasional bowhead whales.

Artists of Qikiqtarjuaq use whalebone and stone for their sculpture. The stone varies in colour from light to dark greens and black.

Kangiqtugaapik (Clyde River)

Kangiqtugaapik (Clyde River)

Barnes Ice Cap

Kangiqtugaapik, “beautiful cove or nice little inlet” in Inuktitut, is a community built on a small bay off Clyde Inlet on the coast of northeastern Baffin Island. Located on a flood plain, Kangiqtugaapik is surrounded by spectacular fiords that stretch into the Barnes Ice Cap.

Kangiqtugaapik is considered the “centre of whalebone carving” in the Arctic. Stone sculpture is also created from a light green stone from the north of Baffin Island. Kangiqtugaapik sculpture varies from the realistic depictions of animals, humans and hunting scenes, to whimsical and humourous depictions of dancing animals.

Qaunaq Palluq (1936-)

Salliit – Salliq (Coral Harbour)

The community of Salliit is located on the Southampton Island, surrounded by Hudson Bay. The Inuktitut name of the town, Salliit, means an island, large and flat, located in front of the mainland. The English name, Coral Harbour, was given by Northwest Passage explorer Thomas Button in 1604, to honour the benefactor of his expedition. Coral Harbour is named for the fossilized coral found here – coral that flourished during an earlier, warmer Arctic climate.

Whalers searching for bowhead whale in the 19th century encountered a group of Inuit called Sallirmiut. The Sallirmiut would face almost complete extinction in the early twentieth century due to exposure to diseases likely brought in by whaling crews. Remains of a large Sallirmiut camp still exists at Native Point, southeast of Coral Harbour.

Once decimated by disease – the community is now populated by Inuit from Baffin Island, Arctic Quebec, and the mainland Keewatin areas. The area is also rich in wildlife, from beluga whales, walrus and seals to caribou, polar bears and migratory birds.

Walrus ivory, whalebone and grey local stone are used in sculpture as well as a pure white limestone unique to this community, and newly introduced red limestone.

Salliit artists carve intricate carved ivory pieces, including rings and other jewelry.

Sanirajak (Hall Beach)

Sanirajak translates into “one that is along the coast” and “flat land” in Inuktitut. It is located on the Melville Peninsula, around 60 kilometres south of Igloolik, and is surrounded by the waters of the northern Foxe Basin. The English name for the community and nearby lake comes from Captain Charles Frances Hall, an American explorer who lived and traveled with the Inuit in the region in the mid-19th century.

Hall Beach Dew Line station

Captain Charles Frances Hall (?-1871)

Captain Hall with Inuit friends


Iqaluit (formerly Frobisher Bay)

Iqaluit (Frobisher Bay)

This community attracts Inuit from around the Arctic; consequently the sculpture produced in this area does not have a uniform style.

Animals in this community’s sculptures are rendered as “flamboyantly realistic” but in poses that are “heroic or unusual”.