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Contemporary Inuit Sculpture

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Kiawak Ashoona, Bird Creature, 1990, and Osuitok Ipeelee, Shaman with His Helping Animals, 1977

Animals have always played an important role in Inuit legends. Revered by some, avoided by others, they are also sources of food and fear. Both these works depict humans in the company of animals. Kiawak Ashoona's Bird Creature has undergone a transformation that is exemplified in the muscular male body, the bird head that appears almost prehistoric, and the clawed feet on which the creature is balanced. In Shaman with His Helping Animals, Osuitok Ipeelee also depicts two animals, a walrus and a bear. Unlike Ashoona, who presents a creature that is half-human, half-animal, Ipeelee portrays a man and two animals joined in stone. A closer look at these sculptures reveals the sounds imagined by the artists. In Ipeelee's work, the man's open mouth is making the sound of a human turning into a shaman, while Ashoona undoubtedly heard the deep voice expressing the bird creature's discontent.