Authored by: Nicole Fletcher on April 8, 2013

Map of northern Canada showing Kittigazuit

During a tour of the exhibition, Creation & Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art, Curator of Inuit Art, Darlene Wight told the story behind Abraham Anghik Ruben’s stunning sculpture, Kittigazuit. In this work, Anghik tells the story of Kittigazuit, a community that sits on the Mackenzie River delta in the western Arctic.

Once, Kittigazuit was the largest known seasonal gathering place for Inuit in Arctic Canada, with a population reaching up to approximately 1000 people. It was also the site of a well organized beluga hunting station for at least 500 years. Then around 1900, a series of epidemics brought in by traders and whalers devastated the community, killing about half of the population, including members of Anghik’s family. The area was essentially abandoned for several years due to the grief associated with Kittigazuit, turning a once thriving community into a ghost town.

Several years after the ruination of Kittigazuit other groups began to move into the abandoned settlement. An Anglican mission was established from 1911 to 1917. Then the Hudson’s Bay Company established their first coastal western Arctic trading post from 1912 to 1933. In the 1950s, pens and corrals were constructed for the Canadian Reindeer Project. Finally in 1978, Kittigazuit was declared a national historic site of Canada.

To commemorate the sad history of Kittigazuit, Anghik carved this highly emotive sculpture. The gaping hole in the work represents the now abandoned land. A woman with an empty amautik is also shown, signifying the loss of life and rebirth in the community. What else do you think Abraham Anghik Ruben is trying to relate in his sculpture?

Abraham Anghik Ruben - Kittigazuit - view 1 Abraham Anghik Ruben - Kittigazuit - view 2

Abraham Anghik Ruben
Canadian (Paulatuk; Salt Spring Island, B.C.), b. 1951
Kittigazuit, 1999–2000
whale bone, Brazilian soapstone, African wonderstone
129.5 x 42.5 x 73 cm

Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Commissioned from the artist. Acquired with funds from The Winnipeg Art Gallery Foundation Inc. and with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance program/Oeuvre achetée avec l'aide du programme d'aide aux acquisitions du Conseil des Arts du Canada, 1999-616

To see this wonderful sculpture in person, stop by for the last week of Creation & Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art or 100 Masters: Only in Canada, which opens on May 11, 2013.

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