Big Man on Campus

by Deirdre Kelly

photography by Horst Herget

The anatomical structure isn’t exactly to scale. But when carving an Inuit legend, big is really the only way to go.

“It’s how it was conceived,” says Ruben Komangapik, a native of Pond Inlet, Nunavut, who collaborated with Kuzy Curley (one of the participants in this summer’s Inuit art exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario) in creating the massive stone sculpture located at the north end of York University’s Keele Campus, in front of York Lions Stadium.

Painstakingly carved from a 51,500-pound piece of raw Stanstead granite over a two-year period, the commissioned artwork depicts Ahqahizu, a mythical soccer player aiming to shoot a bronze walrus head into the net of the northern lights.

Standing over six feet tall and measuring nine feet wide, the sculpture captures the Arctic hero falling backwards while executing the Alaskan high kick. The Inuit jumping manoeuvre tests agility and strength and is traditionally performed to indicate a good hunt. Its significance crosses sport and culture to represent a way of life for the people of the North.

“The figure tells a story,” says York art historian and curator Anna Hudson, a Canadian Indigenous art specialist who oversaw the project.

“The sculpture expresses so much about Inuit life and ­culture; it presents an Inuit world view.”

Adds Komangapik, “What I am hoping that people come away with after looking at this sculpture is the acknowledgment that Eskimos are not in the history books. They are still here, right now, accomplishing great things, and at this scale.”

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