Sananguaqti Was His Nickname

Sananguaqti was my dad Marc Tungilik`s nickname. His friends called him that and that translates to `The Carver`.

Marc Tungilik was known throughout the community as Sananguaqti, many in Repulse Bay (Nauyaat in Inuktitut), Nunavut that was, though just his friends called him that.

My dad carved every where. He carved indoors when there would be less dust from when he was sanding and polishing. He carved outdoors when his carving produced too much dust. He carved when he went hunting, mostly when he was in his boat or just along the shore line. The sound of filing on ivory or soapstone or the final sanding touch did make a curious sound for the seal.

A few years ago my husband and I were in Churchill, Manitoba. We went to visit the Eskimo Museum and found some of Marc Tungilik`s earlier pieces, mostly ivory.

Some of them dated back to 1945, but that must have been the time the Catholic missionaries started collecting for museums, as my dad once said he started carving in his early teens, and he was born in July, 1904. He`d been an expert already.

We found many of his ivory carvings there and a lot of them were scenery of animals and people, camping and hunting scenes, as well as some walrus tusk cribbage boards with figures along the sides and on the pegs.

Though he was religious I knew deep down he still believed in our old ways, because he was born at the time when such life was practiced by Inuit, as did his family.

Before the later part of the fifties a community consisted of a family of grand parents, parents, children, grand children all living in one area of their choice and surrounding areas together.

At his birth he was going to be one of the chosen few. Both his parents had unmeasurable powers, but Christianity came into play and so Inuit were ordered that all shamanic practices be banned, calling it evil and barbaric and against God`s will.

After this he became the opposite of his parent`s preparation for him, he became an extreme believer of God.

Yes the carving of shamans were often scary and evil-looking. My dad used to carve half animal half human and this was to show how a shaman would change into his or her animal spirit.

It was said that shamans used to have one or more animals or even inanimate things as spirits. So when you see Inuit carvings and they are mixed images in one, those are depicting a shaman turning into or out of his or her spirit.

Marc Tungilik`s carving were well finished. He would make sure that they were smooth and well polished finished carvings. This is how most of the older carvers used to do it.

When my dad started carving his carving tools were limited, all hand tools, nothing electrical. For those that carved in his era, they were well finished and smooth, that was like the trend then, and they were beautiful.

The generation after them are Inuit carvers too, of course the style of carving has evolved as time passed and electrical tools came into play, cutting the production time by more than half.

They are much bigger pieces and often have that rugged look more dramatic appearance to them. Louder like the generation of their creators, while my dad`s generation of carvers looked more settled, like the motor-less dog team days, peaceful. But not all the time, when images of animals hunting each other and same with depictions of evil.

When we lived at Piqsimaniq in Ukkusiksalik, the priest from Nauyaat traveled to us by his own team of dogs after he returned from a vacation in his home in France.

Father Didier came back with a musical wind-up ballerina and a wind-up mouse. The priest was a family friend. He left after being with us for a couple of days he took off again to his post at the Catholic Church in Nauyaat.

Once he left, my dad wasted no time to take apart my newest toy. He studied the mechanism of it, especially at how the sound of the music was done.

As the days passed and he did not need to hunt for a while, Marc Tungilik came up with a new Inuk woman in an amauti, dancing to music, not the same sound as my ballerina from France but the woman twirled while music played when wound. My eyes nearly popped out with surprise and amazement when he showed me it and it played.

He had made the drum with spikes and the throngs out of metal from one of his fox traps. He used to make incredible carvings at times like that.

I recall in the seventies and eighties, he had bad cataracts that he would have to double his prescription eye glasses to hunt, just to be able to see his prey.

After he had his eyes operated he began to make very small carvings. He could see so much better and he got better eye glasses, much improvement suited to his visual ability. The operation changed how he carved, for he even started specializing in miniatures.

One time a priest needed dentures very badly. Need good teeth in the north for eating that hard frozen meat, what keeps you warm on cold days. My dad carved him his dentures using polar bear teeth. The priest was very happy for being able to eat well again.

Yeah, Marc Tungilik was Sananguaqti alright, carver man of the Arctic Circle.

Taima for now,

Theresie Tungilik

1 Comment

  1. Brad Wark
    Nov 24, 2012

    Thanks Theresie for writing about your father and his art. Fascinating information!