Limited Edition of 7
Dimensions: 32"D x 25"W x 27"H
Artist's copy available for display
Scroll down to read the Inua Story and view slide show.
Spirits crowded Eskimo life, complicating an already difficult existence with taboos, charms and songs designed to appease these all too easily offended powers. In all things animate and inanimate, the Eskimo found a spirit, one capable of choice and self-sacrifice...an Inua. Men needed to deal respectfully, and in a proper manner with animals and objects, so as not to offend this spirit-keeper.
In the hunt, it was believed that the animal gave itself to the worthy hunter; in death its Inua would pass on to an unborn of its own kind and so replenish the earth. Every detail of the hunt and its equipment, every item of clothing, chant, charm, an sentiment of the hunters and their wives, combined to win the animal's favor and appease its soul in death.
Traditionally the Eskimo was a reflection of his environment, and survival depended upon intimately knowing the sea, its ice, and the habits of those creatures which shared them with him. He studied their strengths as well as their vulnerabilities to learn how best to hunt. Yet, because of the Inua he must be careful to remain respectful, and worthy of the sacrificial gift of the hunted one. There was no animal whose hunting was more hedged by strict taboo, magic songs and the use of amulets than Aghvook (Aghvik), the Bowhead Whale.
The year is 1840, the Bowhead, with their courts of attendant Beluga whales, are once again traversing the ice flows and leads of the Arctic Sea. Eight men in an umiak slip silently from the security of the shore-fast ice.
Empowered with songs and charms, and armed with the traditional toggle harpoon, they go to seek that whale which has heard their songs and knows their worth.
On a trackless sea, where only those paths which are appointed cross, they search alone.
But one great shepherd spirit who has heard their songs, is pleased with their request, and has come to offer itself if they can yet remain true in this final test.
A shower of spray puts the umiak on course as muscles strain with the strokes needed to close the gap. The great arched head breaks the surface, the whale birds scream into the air, the massive black back rises out of the waves just as the umiak drives upon its shoulder. The harpoon in thrust, four sealskin floats go overboard as a hundred tons of graceful, arching flesh follows its Inua back into the sea. The signal poke is raised and, won or lost, this meeting will be worthy of a song.