When I first started this piece, it was from a drawing that had a different story in mind. It was to be of a man using a caribou skin to hide from the mosquitoes, after he has skinned it from the day’s catch.
But, after talking with a good friend of mine, Mattijusi (Iyaituq), I had to rethink the story. I wasn’t sure if caribou were even hunted during the time that the mosquitoes were out… but it seems as if they are indeed… and can be pretty thick. The caribou are hunted as they arrive - the time of year really does not matter - summer, spring, fall or winter. People are hungry. So, because of that, this is the new story:
When the word gets out that the caribou are getting closer to the community, the men gather the gear for the hunt. And at the same time, they have their son or sons get ready to hunt too. It just so happened that this man had three sons - and they were your typical boys… mischievous as they come!
While the father was preparing for the hunt, all they wanted to do was carry-on and joke around. After a few subtle hints, though, the boys were ready. Off they went with the other fathers and sons. The caribou usually run the same trails and the men would head in that direction. Once they arrived, they took up spots that could herd the caribou into an area to make the hunt easier.
They sat and waited, always listening for the sound of hooves trampling the ground. As they waited, the mosquitoes began to gather… they were out for blood! The longer the hunters waited - the more mosquitoes appeared. This is when the three boys began thinking - and thought of a game to play - “the endurance game”, they named it. The basic idea was that, after their father had skinned a caribou, whoever could withstand being in the thick of mosquitoes the longest… wins.
So, here we have the first one taking his try at the game! He squats down and holds the freshly-cut skin over his head and waits… and it certainly doesn’t take long before those pesky mosquitoes are attacking the hide in the hundreds!
Oh, and the one other thing I had to do was to make the mosquitoes a bit larger than life! In this kid’s case, I wanted to stretch the truth a little!!—Michael Massie
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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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