Inuksuit is the plural of Inuksuk (pronounced ee-nook-sook) or Inukshuk (the way it has been spelled in English, which also resulted in a change in pronunciation). Inuksuit are stone monuments that originated with the Inuit. The word Inuksuk means “something which acts for or performs the function of a person” and represents the idea that “someone was here” – a sign of a human presence and survival in a remote northern land. You may be familiar with Inuksuit as the symbol of the Vancouver Olympics. The inuksuk has become not only a symbol of Inuit culture but of Canada as well.
One of the Inuksuit in my collection
Sometimes Inuksuit resemble a human figure – in which case they are called Inunnguaq. Traditionally the unworked stones are stacked without any kind of adhesive/mortar used. Those who have the knowledge and talent know what size and weight of stones to choose and how to balance them just right for stability. The oldest Inuksuit are believed to be over 4000 years old and still standing. Inuit tradition states that it is forbidden to destroy an Inuksuk.
Another one of my collection
The main purpose of an Inuksuk is for navigation or communication….as a signpost to hunters to mark migration routes of caribou or locations with plenty of fish. Because they are meant to be signposts used for important survival purposes, the Inuit don’t care for them being used simply as art in places where they could be misleading to people – for example, going camping and making an Inuksuk there could confuse someone who knows how to read the symbolism of them and perhaps lead them astray.
The one I made tonight from polished river rocks
The arrangement of the stones indicates the purpose of that particular marker. Figures with arms might indicate directions. Legs might symbolize areas of open navigation on nearby bodies of water. An inuksuk without arms or with antlers attached to it was often an indication of a cache of food nearby. Often they are made individually but there are places where groupings of them have been put in – sometimes spread out over a distance and other times grouped together – in each case carrying a different meaning to them.
Tonight on In the Zone, I shared information about Inuksuit and showed how to make a mini Inuksuk. Check out the playback link if you missed the show live: Playback of June 27, 2011
And check out this blog post for more information on Canadian art: http://creativeedventures.blogspot.com/2011/06/my-favourite-canadian-art.html