One of the Inuit sculptures that recently went on display in the Skylight area of the Winnipeg Art Gallery is this piece by an unidentified artist. It shows a woman combing her hair. The woman is wearing a traditional parka called an amautik or amauti especially designed for carrying children under the age of two. The amauti has a large comfortable pouch or amaut on the back just below the hood for babies.
The amaut keeps the baby warm and safe from frostbite, the wind and the cold and also helps the mother and child to bond. The mother can even bring the baby from back to front for breastfeeding without exposing it to the elements. During the Our Land exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2016 and 2017, we had these beautiful amautiks on display. The one on the left is made of caribou and the one on the right of cotton decorated with beads. Can you even imagine how skilled a seamstress you would have to be to create one of these?
One of my favorite pieces in the Winnipeg Art Gallery collection is this lithograph called Four Generations by Pitaloosie Saila which shows a family of Inuit women in their parkas. Can you see the baby girl tucked into her mother’s amaut on the far right? She’s the fourth generation.
The word amauti is borrowed from Inuktituk. The amauti has a long Inuit history going back centuries.
It is still being used today.