Inuit Sculpture

On 19 October 1996, the San Diego Museum of Man held its second annual Collector's Club Auction. I was lucky enough to purchase this sculpture that simply is overpowering me. It is VERY spiritual. It defies photography, but here are a couple pictures of it anyway...

The Face
Sculpture Face
The overall sculpture was created using a whale pelvic bone, with eyes carved from soapstone, teeth made from ivory and a nose carved from another bone. It stands 21 inches high, is 40 inches wide, and is about 12 inches deep near the base. It weighs approximately 150 to 200 pounds (whew!).

The Interior, Viewed from the Back
Interior View
Here we see a carved man and woman residing in the interior of the pelvic bone. Karen reads into it that there may be a birth symbolism at work here, which seems possible. They are sitting on fur (rabbit), while guarding the entrance to their "cave" are swatches of bear and wolf fur. The couple seems to be looking at each other very lovingly.

The Artist's Signature Also included in the deal...
Signature Miller Museum Sign
The artist has carved the following into a bearpaw-shaped piece of soapstone:

Tuktoyaktuk 1973
Made by Jim Jacobson
Land of the Midnight Sun
This is a sealskin sign which apparently adorned the museum (no longer in existence?) from which this was originally purchased.

This biographical data was mailed to me from Inuvik, N.W.T. by the artist's daughter, Mavis Jacobson:

Jimmy (Mimurana) Jacobson was bom in 1925 in Baillie Island. His parents were Fred Jacobson and Vera Kigyun. His mother was from Kittigaryuit. His father was a Russian who came with one of the whaling ships which became stranded at Baillie Island. His name was originally Alexander but he changed it when he became a Canadian citizen. Jimmy's parents had twelve children.

Jimmy was adopted by Nellie Eyakuk and Philip Nauyak. There were four children in the family. Until the death of his adopted parents during the big epidemic of 1928, Jimmy lived at Herschel Island where Nauyak was a hunter for the RCMP. They also lived at Niaqulik. Jimmy spent five years at the residen- tial school in Hay River. He then went to Aklavik where he was taken back by his real father. He stayed with the Jacobson family for a few years. Jimmy was married to Bella Williams and they raised twelve children. They lived in Tuktoyaktuk. Jimmy passed away about a month before this sculpture was purchased.

Jimmy Jacobson in 1990
Jimmy Jacobson in 1990
Thanks again to Mavis Jacobson, and to Dawn Anderson in the Territorial administration, who got me connected.

About Tuktoyaktuk:
Latitude: 69º27'15"
Longitude: 133º01'55"
  1. An Inuit idiom meaning 'rock caribou place' (from legend of Shaman). Pronounced Took-too-yak-tuk.
  2. Inuit word, meaning 'caribou crossing.'
  3. Derived from tuktu, 'caribou' and yaktuk 'looks like' and means 'reindeer that looks like caribou.' (Information from Keith Crowe of Northern Development to John Stager, May 16, 1967, at City Centre). 1971 Unincorporated Places Listing no. 3, census code 8901. GSC code 610376. Pop. 1971-596 1966-512. Legend: no fish; Inuit very hungry; sha-man went hunting, saw two caribou; they escaped into the sea; invoked his familiar spirit and turned the two caribou into stone; two huge protruding rocks, place known to Inuit far and wide, as Tuktoyaktuk, which is an Inuit idiom meaning the 'Rock Caribou Place.' From RCMP June 3, 1948. Capt. Smellie (Hudson's Bay Company - Nascopie) was conducting, in 1928?, a survey of the Mackenzie Delta in an attempt to locate a suitable deep water harbour from which a vessel could supply Hudson's Bay Company post in the western Arctic. "... the Eskimo informed me of a large bay about twenty miles along the coast. We proceeded there taking soundings and discovered a large bay with suffient depth of water. This bay had the name Tuk-Tuaktok." p.127 (Wild, Roland; Arctic Command: The Story of the Nascopie; Toronto, Ryerson Press, 1955.) The NWT Language Bureau indicated that the traditional Inuvialuktun (Inuktitut) name for this community is Tuktuujaqrtuuq, which means 'looks like a caribou.'
Links to more information about Northern Canada, the Inuit peoples and their art:
Page Created 1996 - last revised 25 December 2021

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