The Inuksuk Bookby Mary Wallace
The image of a traditional Inuit stone structure, or "inuksuk," silhouetted against an Arctic sky has become a familiar symbol. Yet, for many, their purpose remains a mystery. In a stunning new book, artist and children's author Mary Wallace, in consultation with Inuit elders and other noted experts, gives a fascinating introduction in words, pictures, and paintings… See more details below
The image of a traditional Inuit stone structure, or "inuksuk," silhouetted against an Arctic sky has become a familiar symbol. Yet, for many, their purpose remains a mystery. In a stunning new book, artist and children's author Mary Wallace, in consultation with Inuit elders and other noted experts, gives a fascinating introduction in words, pictures, and paintings to the many forms of the inuksuk structure and its unique place in Inuit life and culture.
Used for centuries as a method of communication in the Far North, "inuksuit" (plural) take on many forms. The most recognized structure, the "inunnguaq," is built out of rocks in the shape of a human. An inunnguaq can be built to fit into the palm of your hand, while others are large majestic figures that loom on the horizon. The Inuksuk Book brings together the age-old stories and wisdom of Inuit elders with modern day insight to create a thought-provoking guide to inuksuk shapes and their meanings.
Archival photographs and exquisite silk paintings bring ten major inuksuk shapes to life. These stone structures function in a variety of roles. The "niugvaliruluit" ("that has legs") acts as a directional marker; the "nakkatait" ("things that fell in the water") points to a good fishing place. The "sakamaktat" ("towering inuksuit") is a tall stack of stones where meat, dog harnesses, and caribou skins are placed to keep them away from hungry animals. Inuksuit such as the "inuksuk anirnilik" ("inuksuk with a spirit") are built as an expression of joy, or as a memorial.
The skill of building an inuksuk is traditionally passed down from one generation to the next. Readers young and old can bring the magic of inuksuit into their own lives by building their own stone structures. Step-by-step instructions are provided along with accompanying photographs.
About the Artist
An award-winning artist, Mary Wallace has created twelve original silk paintings for the book that reflect the haunting beauty of the Arctic. Mary has spent more than seventeen years teaching art and crafts to children and adults at the Haliburton School of Fine Arts. She is the author of eight books in the I Can Make series from Owl.
- Maple Tree Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 8.50(w) x 10.60(h) x 0.40(d)
- Age Range:
- 9 Years
Read an Excerpt
Inunnguaq -- Like a person
An inuksuk is a stone structure that can communicate knowledge essential for survival to an Arctic traveller. Inuksuit (plural) are found throughout the Arctic areas of Alaska, Arctic Canada and Greenland. Inuksuit have been used by the Inuit to act in place of human messengers. For those who understand their forms, inuksuit in the Arctic are very important helpers: they can show direction, tell about a good hunting or fishing area, show where food is stored, indicate a good resting place or act as a message centre.
Every inuksuk is unique because it is built from the stones at hand. Inuksuit can be small or large; a single rock put in place; several rocks balanced on top of each other; boulders placed in a pile; or flat stones stacked. One of these stone structures is known as an inuksuk, two are called inuksuuk and three or more are referred to as inuksuit.
An inuksuk is a strong connection to the land: it is built on the land, it is made of the land and it tells about the land. Inuit are taught to be respectful of inuksuit. There is a traditional law, which persists today, that forbids damaging or destroying inuksuit in any way. New inuksuit can be built to mark the presence of modern-day Inuit, but the old ones should never be touched. Traditionally, it is said that if one destroys an inuksuk, his or her life will be cut shorter.
Over time, the style of building inuksuit has changed. In the past, most inuksuit were built by stacking rock in a particular way, but usually not in the shape of a human. However, many modern inuksuit are built to look like human figures made of stone (with a head, body,arms and legs). In Inuktitut, these are called inunnguaq. Some Inuit believe that this type of stone figure was first built about one hundred years ago, after the arrival of the qattunaat (non-Inuit) whalers. Others say that this human look-alike originated long before this century.
All things change with time; Inuit ways are not exempt. Today, as traditional ways are changing into contemporary ways Inuit, and even non-Inuit, sometimes build inuksuit simply to mark their presence-both in the Arctic and in their travels outside of their homeland.
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