Tag Archives: inukshuk

When is an Inuksuk Not an Inuksuk?

This marvellous 1989 sculpture on the rooftop of the Winnipeg Art Gallery by Manasie Akpaliapik is called Inuksuk. But I learned after I had worked at the art gallery for a couple of years that it actually wasn’t an inuksuk at all. It was an inunnguaq. What’s the difference?

Inuksuks on Foxe Peninsula- Baffin Island- photo by Ansgar Walk

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia inuksuit (the plural for inuksuk) also sometimes called Inukshuks have been found at sites that date from as long ago as 2400 BC. They are formations of rocks used by people across the Arctic as markers for all kinds of purposes- navigational routes, good kayak landing spots, good hunting and fishing sites, locations of celebrations and caches of meat. These markers can be in many different formations. 

Inunnguaq on the other hand are shaped like human beings and can venerate a person, mark a spot for people to meet, or have spiritual significance. 

Flag of Nunavut

So this symbol on the flag of the Canadian territory Nunavut is an inuksuk or inukshuk because although it looks somewhat like a human figure it does not have legs.

But in 2010 this symbol chosen for the Olympic Games in Vancouver was really an inunnguaq even though officials and the media regularly referred to it incorrectly as an inuksuk or inukshuk.

Piita Irniq, Inuit cultural activist, inuksuk builder, and former Nunavut commissioner, says it is important to distinguish between inuksuit and inunnguaqs because inunnguaqs have only been built in the last hundred years or so, largely by non-Inuit people, and are not authentic inuksuit.

Inuksuk- a lithograph by Gilbert Hay 1981- photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

There are inunnguaqs mistakenly called inukshuks or inuksuit all over the world.  

A statue in Hiroshima Japan donated by a variety of Canadian groups as a landmark for peace.

This statue in Hiroshima Japan is called an inukshuk on the plaque at its base although it is clearly an inunnguaq.

A inunnguaq in the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC

So when is an inuksuk not a Inuksuk?

When it’s an inunnguaq !

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Filed under Art, Canada, winnipeg art gallery

Inuksuk or Inunnguaq?

inukshukI’ve recently discovered that although the fabulous 1989 sculpture on the rooftop of the Winnipeg Art Gallery by Manasie Akpaliapik is called Inuksuk it really isn’t one.  It is in fact a inunnguaq.  What’s the difference? 

inukshuks on Foxe Peninsula

Inukshuks on Foxe Peninsula- Baffin Island- photo by Ansgar Walk

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia inuksuks which have been found at sites that date from as long ago as 2400 BC, were formations of rocks used by people across the Arctic as markers for all kinds of purposes- navigational routes, good kayak landing spots, good hunting and fishing sites, locations of celebrations and caches of meat. These markers could be in many different formations. 

Inunnguaq on the other hand were shaped like human beings and could venerate a person, mark a spot for people to meet, or have spiritual significance. 

881px-Flag_of_Nunavut

Flag of Nunavut

An article in the Toronto Globe and Mail discusses the use of the inuksuk or inukshuk on the flag of the Nunavut Territory and the way the inunnguaq was used as a symbol for the Canadian Olympics in 2010 but mistakenly called an inuksuk.  Some people think inukshuks and inunnguaqs are important Inuit cultural symbols and should not be used for decoration or marketing. What do you think?

Tourists from around the world are building impromptu inukshuks all over the place in Canada’s national parks and conservation officers are removing them because they alter the natural landscape. Are the officers doing the right thing? 

I’ve learned there are inunnguaqs mistakenly called inukshuks all over the world.  

542px-Inukshuk,_Hiroshima_01

An “inukshuk” but really a inunnguaq in Hiroshima Japan donated by a variety of Canadian groups as a landmark for peace.

800px-Inukshuk,_Canadian_Embassy,_Washington

A Inunnguaq labeled as an inuksuk in the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC

Other posts……….

Build Your Own

Making Wishes in Sedona

Getting Nostalgic and Just a Little Sad

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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery