A WHALE JAW BECOMES THE FIGURE OF SEDNA, the shoulder bone of a walrus imagined into a man playing a drum, while muskox horns and caribou antlers lie on a dusty shelf, waiting to see what they’ll be shaped into. Manasie Akpaliapik returns to Arctic Bay, Nunavut every year to bring back these pieces of home that he will carve into his stories. “In my language, we don’t have a word for art,” says Akpaliapik, “When we talk about someone carving we say ‘that guy is pretending’ so all my life I’ve been pretending.”
Akpaliapik comes from a family of carvers. When he was 9-yearsold, he sold his first carving to the Hudson’s Bay Company for a box of carnation milk and a toy gun. He laughs now, admitting “it didn’t look like anything. It was just a little mark there and there but it’s all how you look at it.” Akpaliapik’s artwork now lives in collections that span the country – the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Ontario Art Gallery and National Art Gallery.
His carvings speak to the land not only through materials but also to the Inuit relationship with the land. “Growing up, we relied on nature: moving with it, living with it, being part of it,” says Akpaliapik. “That’s something to be proud of and I can show that in my artwork.”
Manasie’s whalebone pieces can be seen at Inuit Fine Art, in Port Hope.
Photograph of Manasie by Shelby Lisk