Sarah Iootna (1926 -  )

Narwhal Gallery: Sarah Iootna

Detail of Dolls, 2007
Caribou horn, 8 x 3 x 4 cms (HxWxD), Cape Dorset

Sarah Iootna was born in 1926 in a traditional Eskimo camp near Padlei on the West Coast of Hudson's Bay, Canada. She began carving in 1967 and prefers to work with caribou antler, often working with a friend to create a contemporary object such as the child's doll, which has its antecedence in ancient Inuit history, and was often the only 'toy' that a small girl would have. Her husband, two daughters and son are also carvers all living in the small West Hudson Bay community of Arviat (formerly Eskimo Point).

These small but beautifully fashioned dolls have arms and legs that fully rotate and are attached through the antler by sinew and sit well on their base. They have all been made recently, but retain the simplicity and honesty of the artist. As Sarah gets older and her eyesight fades so these delightful images of the old days will disappear.

Fortunately within the last year she has accepted that it would be a shame to lose the tradition of doll making and so she has taught Thomas Nibgoarsi to create them, although he has changed the facial features from the more crudely made 'holes'.

Thomas follows a long line of craftsmen and artists from this region including his brother Chesley and the recently deceased Luke Anowtalik in making use of caribou antler, which is a renewable resource, shed by the animal annually.