Eli Sallualu (Sallualuk) Qinuajua was born on January 2, 1937 at Isisuivik, a camp located roughly forty miles south of Puvirnituq. Except for two brief periods while hospitalized for tuberculosis in the south, Eli has spent most of his life in Puvirnituq. In 1962, he married Leah Irqirqu Amaruali, daughter of artist Paulusi Iqiqu Amaruali, and they now have nine children. In addition to carving soapstone, Eli is an accomplished actor who has performed in several radio plays hosted by CBC Northern Circuits.
As a youth, he spent much of his time learning the ancient lore from his father, Juanisi Qinuajua — one of the great storytellers of northern Quebec. In his book “Sculpture of the Eskimo”, George Swinton states that “In Eli Sallualuk’s carvings, the mixture of skill and fantasy leads to a daliesque surrealism — a highly descriptive yet fantastically abstract supernaturalism.” While this kind of so-called ‘fantastic’ art is common to the entire eastern Arctic, under Eli’s mastery of form the various anthropomorphic shapes emit new meaning, and life.
Some of Eli’s creatures appear demonic or grotesque; often possessing a single elliptical eye, and elbows that are articulated as knob-like projections. At other times, the root-like appendages or tendrils are interwoven as in some sort of whimsical ballet. In 1967, Eli was awarded first prize for his submission to a special local competition of ‘imaginative sculpture’ held in Puvirnituq. Since then, Eli’s work has received much acclaim and has been exhibited throughout the world.
Excerpt courtesy Inuit Art Section, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), 1997.
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