Syllabic Translator

i u a pi pu pa ti tu ta ki ku ka gi gu ga mi mu ma ni nu na si su sa li lu la ji ju ja vi vu va ri ru ra qi qu qa ngi ngu nga lhi lhu lha

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Karoo Ashevak, ᑲᕈ ᐊᓴᕙ



whale bone, baleen, unsigned, Condition very good.

Please contact the specialist for further condition information.

15 x 30 x 6.5 in — 38.1 x 76.2 x 16.5 cm

Makler Gallery, Philadelphia, 1973;
Private Collection, United States;
Private Collection, Ontario

A composition comprising both an arresting asymmetry and sense of balance, this exceptional figure of a drummer by Karoo Ashevak embodies many of the characteristics for which the artist's work is most lauded. Known for imagery evocative of spiritual and otherworldly beings, for his exploitation of organic forms found in whalebone, and an overall tone of playfulness, if not outright humour.

Here Ashevak has grounded his figure on one of two small feet. A long, sweeping, cantilever-like arm stretches out from the central mass of the composition, supported in mid-air and holding a hoop drum or kelaudi—the essential ritual instrument of the Angakkuq (shaman). A small second arm and mittened hand is carved in low relief—its disparity in size with its dominant counterpart suggests a magical air. The presence of the mittens may allude to the often-covered hands of the Angakkuq during dancing, or the necessity of covered hands during certain acts of divining. [3.] The gnarled and contorted features of the face evoke the dream-inspired masks used in both secular dance and shamanic ritual throughout the Arctic.

With his noted sensitivity to material, Ashevak’s composition is emphasized by the pitted lines of the porous whalebone which seem to emanate outward from the head into the limbs of the figure, and which, perhaps as elsewhere in Ashavak’s work, hint at the immaterial character of the shaman’s domain. [2.]

Related works:
 Hessel, Ingo. Arctic Spirit: Inuit Art from The Alberecht Collection at the Heard Museum. Phoenix: The Heard Museum, 2006. p. vii pl. 2


1. Blodgett, Jean. Karoo Ashevak. Winnipeg: The Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1977. p. 2

2. Ibid., p. 5

3. Jean-Ray, Dorothy. Eskimo Masks: Art and Ceremony. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 1967, p. 30

Estimate: $60,000—90,000

Auction Results

Auction Date Auction House Lot # Low Est High Est Sold Price
2021-12-09 Waddington's 152 60,000 90,000 132,000.00

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