“...in the time before this time, when the world was unfinished...people then were animals. Animals were people. They wore each other’s masks and parkas.”
Tom Lowenstein, ‘Ancient Land: Sacred Whale, The Inuit Hunt and its Rituals’
These works were inspired by the British Museum’s collection of Inuit artefacts and various anthropological books and studies on Inuit cultures and their relationship with animals. The current new and challenging environmental problems we face today are urging us to reconsider the way we view the natural world. A new relationship needs to emerge between the human and the more-than-human, and perhaps traditional Inuit cultures could show us a way to re-think our place within the environment. For instance while Inuits hunted whales they would use different rituals, songs and ceremonies to approach the whale. This ensured the whale would feel respected and would willingly give itself for food. Therefore Inuits recognised animals’ own capacity for thoughts and feelings, a concept which does not thrive in the industrialised food consumption of today.
Based on this research, a head-piece representing a whale and made out of eggshell was produced, alongside a series of works on paper. The use of eggshell is referencing the use of food material being recycled into functional objects, a common practice in traditional Inuit cultures. the head-piece contains references to Inuit beliefs that whale and human spirits can be interchangeable. This piece represents the head of a beluga, a white whale living in arctic waters, but has two holes so a human can wear it and see through it. This way an attempt to create a portal from humans to whales was made, inciting wearers to see, think, move and behave as a whale would.
These works have been shown at different venues such as the Nunnery (London), the Pump House Gallery (London), and Fjúk Arts Centre (Iceland).
Research drawings from the British Museum collection of Inuit artefacts