Levi Qumaluk was born May 7, 1919 on the Kugoalu River just south of Povungnituk. As the patriarch of his influential family, Levi was one of six brothers who took up carving to provide needed income; he is the only one of the six to make prints. “When the Povungnituk co-op started, it was very poor. I used to contribute some of the money I had earned from my carving to help pay the co-op staff.”* Today Levi is recognized as one of the most prolific and talented carvers in the eastern Arctic.
Levi’s work focusses primarily on the Inuit struggle for survival in an extremely cold environment. Recurring themes such as mother and child activities, narratives of the hunt, and legends passed onto Levi by his grandfather emerge in his art. In the hands of this master carver cammonplace subject matter takes on a more personal and deeper significance. Beneath the allure of carefully polished surfaces, the viewer is often confronted by his unorthodox interpretations of the stark realities of traditional Inuit life. For Levi, subject matter in both sculpture and prints seems subordinate to the sensual depiction of detail in braided hair, rippling garments and hunting implements. Tools and weapons are carefully rendered; seams, either in clothing, tents or kayaks, are precisely delineated.
Levi has produced stonecut prints since 1962. Initially his output was sporadic but he has contributed print-drawings for most of the annual collections since 1979. In the drawings Levi tends to depict descriptive hunting scenes and camp life, and his compositions are made more interesting by his flair for the manipulation of negative and positive space.
Jusi, Inukpak and Tania (the Elder) are three of Levi’s brothers who were also artists.
* Povungnituk Cooperative Society, 1980 POVUNGNITUK PRINT COLLECTION AND SIX NEW WORKS BY TIVI ETOOK, (Ville St. Laurent: La Federation des Cooperatives du Nouveau-Quebec, 1980), p.40.
Excerpt courtesy Inuit Art Section, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), 1997.
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