Shaman Riding a Bear, c. 1952
stone, ivory, sinew, feather
11.4 x 9.2 x 23.5 cm
Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; The Swinton Collection; Gift of the Women's Committee
Akeeaktashuk began carving in 1949 at the invitation of visiting artist James Houston, becoming one of the most prolific Inuit carvers from the early 1950s. His most typical subjects were hunters gripping weapons in one or both hands, or mother-and-child images. This shamanic work is unusual for the period and for the artist. The striking image is of a shaman riding on his bear spirit helper as he travels to the spirit realm to intercede on behalf of those from his camp experiencing hardship. The bear exhibits joint marks, or carved slashes, that are similar to those on shamanic carvings from the prehistoric Dorset period.