Conversation Series Part Three! Meet Jaco Ishulutaq

7 Mar

After some technical difficulties, we are back with our third installment of our Conversation Series via Skype. This time, meet Jaco Isulutaq from Panniqtuuq (Pangnirtung). Jaco is a well-respected carver who has been working for decades.

Jaco’s work is best known for his sculptures of the Inuit Sea Goddess, commonly called Sedna. Sedna is the Inuit sea goddess and a very important figure in traditional Inuit spirituality, particularly in coastal communities. There are many different names for the sea goddess as well as versions of her legend, which vary from community to community
According to one version, Sedna was a beautiful Inuit girl who was pressured into marriage to a sea bird by her father. Her new husband fed her fish and kept her in a nest on an island far from her family. Her father missed her and felt badly for forcing her into marriage, so he attempted to rescue her in his kayak. The bird was enraged, so he conjured up a deadly storm. In a panic, the father pushed Sedna over the side of the kayak but she clung to the side. Her father cut her fingers off, one by one, and they fell into the sea and transformed into sea mammals. Sedna herself sank into the water, where she transformed into the sea goddess. In other versions of the story, her husband is a dog or a hunter who gives her a sleeping potion and carries her off. Her father does not always cut her fingers off, either; sometimes, they freeze and fall off instead.

She was an incredibly important figure because she controlled Inuit access to marine mammals, which were a staple in many regional diets. She was easily upset and many traditional taboos (such as not eating caribou when hunting seal) were enforced in order not to anger her. Images of the Sea Goddess with unkempt hair often signify that she is upset, at which point she would hold back the marine mammals from Inuit hunters. The angukaak would then have to discover the transgression and overcome several trials in order to reach her undersea home. There, the angukaak would either have to soothe her by combing and braiding her hair or, in other versions, force her to release the sea mammals.

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2 Responses to “Conversation Series Part Three! Meet Jaco Ishulutaq”

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  1. New Conversation Series Videos Posted! Meet Reneltta Arluk! « Peek Inside the Museum of Inuit Art - May 27, 2012

    […] are so delayed: I interviewed Reneltta back in early February – right after I interviewed Jaco Ishulutaq, actually – but then we ran into technical difficulties. We had to start the interview a few […]

  2. Meet Master Artist Jaco Ishulutaq! « Peek Inside the Museum of Inuit Art - August 9, 2012

    […] may remember Jaco from earlier this year when I was able to chat with him via Skype as part of our Conversation Series. He is a technically skilled master sculptor from Panniqtuuq (Pangnirtung) whose work tells […]

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