Nuliajuk’s Story – Mini Art Exploration

Ningiukulu Teevee. Appeased, 2011. graphite, coloured pencil, and black ink on paper, 49.8 x 65 cm. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Acquired with funds from the Estate of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Naylor, funds administered by The Winnipeg Foundation, 2011-98.⁠

Storytelling is an important part of Inuit life. Traditionally, elders, grandfathers, grandmothers, and parents would share a variety of stories with their children- not only to entertain them, but to teach them about the land, the sea, and their culture. Some of the most popular stories that have continued to be told for generations are those related to the great sea spirit Nuliajuk- also known as Taleelayuk , Takannaaluk, Arnajuinnaq, Uinigumasuittuq – or Sedna in different parts of the Arctic.

Enjoy the video below to hear a traditional telling of the story. Then have fun exploring three artworks to see how artists from different communities have expressed the story in a variety of ways.

HEAR THE STORY:

 

EXPLORE THE ART:

Veronica Kadjuak Manilak. Sedna with Narwhals and Fish, n.d. wool duffle, wool felt, embroidery floss, 107 x 78 cm. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Gift of Linda Woodhouse, 2018-175.

Can you spot Nuliajuk, the great Inuit sea spirit in this colourful wall hanging?
Look at her body. What do you notice?

  • Why do you think the artist has represented her with a tail?
  • Who is swimming alongside her? Have you ever seen a narwhal with its long ivory tusk?
  • How many can you find in this wall hanging?

 

Germaine Arnaktauyok. Sedna, Ruler of All Sea Animals, 1994. etching, aquatint on paper, 18/50, 48.2 x 56.2 cm  Image: 29.8 x 34.9 cm. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Gift of Moira Swinton and Bernard Léveillé, 2019-316.

Look closely at this print by artist Germaine Arnaktauyok.

  • What’s going on in this work?
  • Can you find Nuliajuk- and a few narwhales?
  • What other sea creatures is she protecting?

There are many different stories told about the Inuit sea spirit. These stories were passed from person to person across the Arctic in different communities by mouth (or oral tradition). Just as Nuliajuk, the sea spirit came to be called by many different names over time, she was also pictured in many different ways. Sometimes she appears as part fish, and sometimes she appears to be human. In this print called Sedna, Ruler of All Sea Animals, she is underwater, but in human form.

  • Look carefully at the traditional Inuit clothing she is wearing. What type of waterproof animal skins do you think her clothing and her kamiit (boots) might be made from?

 

Ningiukulu Teevee. Appeased, 2011. graphite, coloured pencil, and black ink on paper, 49.8 x 65 cm. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Acquired with funds from the Estate of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Naylor, funds administered by The Winnipeg Foundation, 2011-98.⁠

How would you describe Nuliajuk in this drawing? Does she look friendly- or angry?

In Ningiukulu Teevee’s artwork, Appeased, Nuliajuk is angry and will not release the animals of the sea to Inuit hunters who need to bring food back to their families. In response, an angakkuq or shaman tries to calm her or make her feel better by slowly combing through her long hair.

  • Do you think this will help?
  • What do you see swimming out of the brush?

 

Thanks for exploring Naliujuk’s Story, be sure to visit the Winnipeg Art Gallery when we reopen to see these and many more works of art in person!

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One response to “Nuliajuk’s Story – Mini Art Exploration”

  1. Meredith says:

    Mille mercis! I have shared this with my colleagues. So wonderful to have this option to continue our learning of Indigenous Perspectives online with our students!

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