Sanikiluaq is a small Inuit community of 750 people located in the heart of Hudson Bay, in the Belcher Islands, It is the southernmost community in Nunavut, approximately 150 km off the west coast of Quebec.
This community has very unique stone called argillite. Carvings made from argillite take on an unmistakable finish that is native to Sanikiluaq only. This creates a very unusual look where the carving take on an appearance of both softness and refinement.
Other features found in argillite stone consist of beautiful dark grainy waves which strike so vividly against the surface. This creates a stunning and dramatic effect which gives an extra spacial dimension to the piece. Due to these properties, argillite carvings take on an added element of substance and depth. This is why Sanikiluaq art is world famous and very in-demand. Colors in the stone range from jet black to beautiful pale greens.
Sanikiluaq carvings in principle are centred around happy and positive themes. Whether this be a bear or a loon, artists like to include expressions of harmony and peace onto their subjects. This is often done by carving the eyes with a wide open stance, and the mouths with a smile. Because of this style of carving, admirers of Sanikiluaq art are often left with a in-explainable feeling of happiness and joy after seeing a piece. This in my opinion is what makes Sanikiluaq art so great.
It is important to note that Sanikiluaq is host to a handful of master carvers who are internationally renowned for their art. One of these artists in particular goes by the name Jimmy Iqaluq. He is one of the most celebrated Inuit artists in the world who is still active today. His Loons are internationally famous and is what he is most known for. Many of his pieces have one prizes in numerous international exhibitions. One of Jimmy`s loons is being held in Canada`s National art collection in its capital city Ottawa.
Paul Kavik is another master carver who specializes in bears and wolves. His proportions and subjects are exceptionally accurate, full of life and tastefully done. Any carving from Paul Kavik is of museum quality. His wolves have won numerous awards in national and International exhibitions as well. Both artists have been carving for over 40 years. Aside form all of their fame, they continue to stay true to their roots. They are still very traditional to the old Inuit way of life as they enjoy fishing and hunting and going out into the country when the Caribou are passing by.
Other notable artists from Sanikiluaq are Jonassie Ippak (well known for his bears and teeth), Joe Kavik (famous for strong powerful walking bears - Paul Kavik`s brother), and Isaac Sala (who has a very dynamic range of subjects he likes to carve such as hunters, bears, birds etc...).
The community itself is quite isolated from the rest of Nunavut or, even its closest neighbor Nunavik is separated by the Hudson bay. It has three scheduled flights per week that go in and out of the community. This of course is mostly done by small bush airplanes like the Twin Otter. In town, you can find a CO-OP general store and several other buildings. Winters here are very long and summers are short. Although Sanikiluaq is part of Nunavut, it is very far from the other communities. Because of its isolation, this makes getting Sanikiluaq art harder to get than other communities. In general, you will not see art from Sanikiluaq as often as other communities. There are only a hand full of galleries like ours who have access to Sanikiluaq art en-mass.
Other than carvings, Sanikiluaq is also known for its beautiful baskets made from lyme grass.