“I was in Ottawa recently and visited the bookstore in the Museum of Civilisation—there I found the book, “Art and Expression of the Netsilik.” The Central Arctic, by the way, happens to be my favourite region for for the style of Inuit carving being made. I was lucky enough, years ago, to have the chance to teach in Gjoa Haven—and I did meet some of the artists there: Uriash Puqiqnak, Joseph Shuqslak, Nelson Takkiraq and Judas Ullulaq, to name a few.
Reading through the book I came across the Uriash Puqiqnak piece called “Amayugyug” (Stealer of Children, 1995) and “Amayugyug and Qallupilluq” by Judas Ullulaq from 1996. I am always fascinated by the stories that Inuit parents told their children to protect them—this one warns the children of what can happen if they venture too far away from the camp… that the Amayugyug can snatch them away!
This story is one of those protective ones, so I decided to use it for the theme of this piece. When I initially looked at the stone, all I could see was the Amayugyug and the child… but I couldn’t see either of the parents—particularly the mother. So that meant that I had to spend quite a bit more time looking before it came to me. As I was grinding the stone, I came to the back of the mother’s head and began to see Amayugyug in her hood… so I went with that idea as I started to see him with the child in his arms. So, the design came together with the child having just woken from a nightmare (of Amayugyug) and he is jumping into his mother’s arms.
From one side the sculpture reads as the mother is holding the child—and from the other, it is the Amayugyug who is holding the child. I wanted to show the child as very scared and crying—and used a picture of my own daughter (Alex) crying for the face of the young boy. I wanted the child’s face to be as realistic as possible in order to contrast with the two stone faces—as I felt that this sculpture ultimately was to honour those master artists who had grown up with these tales and shared them. I am thinking that this piece was an ode to the brothers (Judas and Nelson) of Gjoa Haven.”
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.
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