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Arctic Abundance

Nesting season has begun in Cape Dorset and all around Baffin Island. Waterfowl, shorebirds and water birds arrive by the thousands to breed. The snow is melting and plants are preparing to burst out of the tundra. The migrating birds can find many safe places to build nests and breed in the far north.

Lesser Snow Geese return to nest in the Arctic every year. They gather in great numbers and are highly vocal. Their colouring can be white feathers with black wing tips or blue/gray plumage except for a white head. Snow Geese have strong serrated bills and tongues to tear and cut at roots. In the Arctic they feed mostly on sedges and grasses.

The snow geese nest quite close to one another in large colonies, the nests are small mounds made from gravel, grasses and moss. They add some of their down feathers before the first egg is laid. The female incubates the eggs except for a few minutes a day. She fed off different grains in fields on her way to the north and is quite prepared. There is about 4 eggs in one clutch. Once the eggs hatch and the goslings are dried off, the lesser snow goslings leave the nest with their parents in search of food. They have to gain a lot of weight quickly to be big enough to migrate south when the temperatures start cooling.

The raven is a year round resident in Cape Dorset and many communities in the north. The large all black bird mate for life and have lived in the area for many generations. The raven has an omnivorous diet eating things like insects, berries, carrion, small animals and food waste. It’s wedge shaped tail and large bill with the top part being larger than the bottom are a few details that distinguish it from crows. The northern raven does feature in Inuit mythology as a trickster and often acts outside of traditional customs to bring about change or transformation with a positive result. The brain of a raven is larger than most birds making them strong problem solvers. They use their intelligence and opportunistic nature to survive all year in the Arctic.

There are several species of loons found around Baffin Island in the summer months. Loons like the Pacific, Arctic, Red-throated and Common loon make the long journey north for the safety of the remote Arctic islands. The loon is known for it’s beautiful call and smooth elegant neck. Loons feed on aquatic insects, fish, mollusks, crustaceans and plant material on the tundra. They seek out tundra ponds and lakes and the female and male will work together to build their nests very close by.

Our featured artist is Parr Parr who was born on May 17th in 1990. Parr Parr comes from a family of talented artists like his great grandparents Parr and Eleeshushe Parr. His great grandfather Parr started his drawing career later in life and produced over 2000 drawings in less than 10 years. Major exhibitions and acknowledgements came after Parr’s death and his artwork “Hunters of Old” was chosen for a 1977 Canadian postage stamp. His great grandmother Eleeshushe Parr was a prolific graphic artist, occasional carver and skilled textile artist. Parr Parr’s Mom, Leah Parr has worked on carvings and jewellery making. Parr Parr is the 2nd eldest in his family to parents Pootoogook Eli and Leah Parr and he shares his story.

I started carving inuksuks when I was 16 years old, after that I tried to carve bears and other animals, wolf, rabbit but they were not so good so I started carving birds for the past 8 years. I sell to the Co-op and I am one of the artists whose work is sought after by galleries. I am named after Parr my great grandfather. My great grandfather was one of the first generation of graphic artists whose work was bold and primitive. Parr, the graphic artist, was almost blind when he was doing drawings.

I live common law with Lao Nungusuituk and have three children. Ages 7,4,2 - two boys and one girl.

Before I started carving on my own at about age 14, I used to help Noo Atsiaq, my uncle, who mainly carved bears. I learned how to use the grinder and files and polish carvings. Since I started carving, I have been supporting myself through my carvings. Most of my carvings of birds are unique. When I start carving I look at the stone first, at different angles to see what shape I will carve. This usually takes about 5 minutes. When I see what is in the stone, then I start carving away the stone. I like carving birds, how their wings curve, and try to make them look like they are moving or in flight or perched, ready for action. I first started carving owls with flat heads, and later I started carving ravens that have more rounded faces and longer beaks.

Two years ago, I taught Matt Flaherty, my friend, when he returned to Cape Dorset how to carve. Matt has become a very good carver making detailed carvings of bears. For the past three to four years I work at a friend’s house, Lucassie Mikkigak, another carver who lets me use his tools for carving and finish the pieces at his house.

I graduated from grade 12 and can get other employment. I worked at various other jobs in town but I prefer carving to regular employment because I can make more money to support my family. I used to go hunting with my grandfather Atsiaq Alashua, until he is now too old to go out hunting. Atsiaq used to encourage me to go out hunting by walking to see what new things I could find on the land. Now I have my children to look after and with my carving I do not have the time to go out hunting as I used to.

The carvers of Cape Dorset are influenced by Arctic wildlife including the thousands of birds that visit the area. Ashevak Adla finds inspiration for his elegant bird masks and commanding bear. Kelly Etidloie observes and reflects his talents in his preening birds. The snowy owl and its chicks motivate Joanasie Manning’s expertise. Toonoo Sharky explores a spirit bird with his gift. Pudlalik Shaa delves into various animals in stone including his graceful dancing walruses and geese. Tony Oqutaq’s creativity abounds in his reflection on ice bear carvings. Many Cape Dorset artists are showcased in our collection like Parr Parr, Ottokie Samajualie, Tim Pee, Pitseolak Qimirpik, Ottokie Ashoona, Alashua Sharky, Isa Oqutaq, Papinak Petaulassie, Kiliktee Kiliktee, and Ning Ashoona.

We have the most recent Inuit carvings from Cape Dorset. Many of the Inuit sculptures have been carved within the last few months made from soapstone or marble that is mined from stone quarries on the South Baffin Island coast. We have carvings by Ashevak Adla, Aqsangajuk Shaa, Toonoo Sharky, Joanasie Manning, Ning Ashoona, Pudlalik Shaa, Markoosie Papigatok, Ottokie Ashoona, Kelly Etidloie, Ottokie Samajualie, Isacie Petaulassie and many others. Our Inuit art sculptures are shipped directly to you from Cape Dorset, Nunavut.   Have a look around online or come on out to Cape Dorset to view the sculptures in our gallery.

Small creations from Cape Dorset See our carvings