Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)

“the mediator”


The stone was very elegant before I started to work and, because of that, I wanted to keep the final forms simple with little detail but with enough visual information with the inlay that one could see what was going on in the piece.

I could see the shaman from the start, but it took some looking before I was able to see the polar bear, walrus, and muskox on the back side. Once I saw how they were placed I was able to continue with the grinding. I wanted the three animals to work together as one form — and to have all four characters flow together and blend into one single piece.

This is a story about a community that has been going many days without a good catch. They had not seen any seals, walrus, polar bears, muskox — or any other animal — for some time, and the people were becoming quite hungry. Finally the people decided to talk with their shaman to see if he could find out what was happening, as they were thinking that they must have committed some awful deed for them not to have caught any food for so long.

The shaman began his chant and after a while entered into the spirit world — only to find all the animals gathered there — and there was lots of chatting and cheering going on. When he reached the animals he asked them what was going on, and they told him “The polar bear, muskox, and walrus are having a dispute as to who is the mightiest.”

The shaman approached the three and asked them to come to a decision.

The muskox told the shaman that he was the strongest because he was massive in size, had long thick fur to protect him, and had large thick horns to defend himself — and could live on the land through all types of weather.

The walrus said “I am the strongest because I have a thick hide, long tusks that are able to over turn human boats — and can both swim in the waters and move across the land.”

The polar bear said, “I am the strongest. I too have thick fur, and I have huge teeth, and I can walk on the land and swim in the water as well, so that makes me the strongest.”

The shaman thinks about all this for some time and finally tells them that they are all the strongest — just each in its own way — and because of this, you are all the same.

—Michael Massie

Michael Massie

Michael Massie


Inuit, Métis

Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

(1962- )

Massie’s work is a reflection of his mixed Inuit, Métis and Scottish heritage. In it, he investigates both traditional and contemporary themes. He has achieved renown for his innovative teapots that combine themes and symbols from his native Inuit culture with European traditions. Massie has been twice short-listed for the coveted Prix Saidye Bronfman and has an extensive international reputation. His work has been shown in North America and Europe, including the National Gallery of Canada. He was elected a member of Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2011.