The angakogs played the important role of preserving and interpreting ancient traditions. The name derives from the word “anga”, which means “maternal uncle” or, more generally, “one who commands respect.”
Rasmussen describes the first steps that a young man (in the Igloolik area) would take to learn the secrets of the angakogs. First, he handed over some of his possessions to the experienced instructor. This was partly as payment for his teaching—but it also symbolized the willingness of the apprentice shaman to break from his former existence. A usual gift was a tent pole with a gull’s wing attached, signifying that the novice desired to learn how to fly with the spirit world. In the secret language of the shamans, a tent pole was “napata”, “that which holds something upright.”
This is where I stopped with what I wanted to get across with this piece. The apprentice has the tent pole and has just obtained the gull’s wing. He holds the wing very gently to show respect for the gifts he has for his master. His head is bent forward to show respect for what is about to take place and to show his willingness to take on the spirit of flight. The large hand represents the connection to both the human and spirit worlds.
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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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