Canadian, b. 1924
Shaman with Snake Helping Spirit, 1970
caribou antler, black colouring
24.1 x 13.7 x 4.4 cm
Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Gift of Faye and Bert Settler
Sculpture by Barnabus Arnasungaaq was first shown publicly in the 1964 WAG exhibition Eskimo Carvers of the Keewatin, N.W.T. He has become known for his animals and human figures carved from hard black stone. The muskox has been a particular favourite, and two of his monumental “gentle giants,” male and female, are in the WAG’s Jerry Twomey Collection. This antler carving is a surprising anomaly in the artist’s oeuvre, and its subject matter is unusual for Inuit artists. An inscription penciled on the base explains: “This angakkuq (shaman) uses a snake as his helping spirit.” In many shamanic cultures the snake is a magical animal that can reveal the future as it is believed to be a receptacle for the souls of the dead.