Abraham Anghik Ruben
Powerful, compelling, exquisite are but a few of the words to describe the work of master sculptor Abraham Anghik Ruben. Stories, myths and legends of ancient Northern cultures find new life and expression through his work. Linked by strong narratives, his sculptures speak of cultures lost and times forgotten.
Abraham was born in 1951 in a camp south of Paulatuk, Northwest Territories and east of the Mackenzie River Delta. This region is home to the Mackenzie Inuit or Inuvialuit. The late 1890s would see the arrival of large-scale commercial whaling fleets into the region soon followed by an influx of Inuit from Alaska.
Abraham’s own great-grandparents, noted shamans Apakark and Kagun came from the Bering Sea region of Alaska during this time. Abraham pays tribute to them in the sculpture Apakark and Kagan-Journey to the Underworld (plate 14). By the time of Abraham’s birth, Inuit culture was in the midst of a profound change that would forever alter their traditional way of life and set the stage for Abraham’s lifelong quest to re-discover and connect with his roots.
Up until the age of 8 Abraham lived with his family on the land migrating with the changing patterns of the seasons. As it had been for thousands of years, life was hard and the family needed to rely on the skills and efforts of all members to ensure survival in one of the harshest environments on earth. In 1955 this existence was to change dramatically for Abraham when heartbreaking time for the family is eloquently captured in The Last Goodbye. This same scene would be repeated again when Abraham and his other brothers were themselves sent away. This sadness and horror of life at these schools would come to light many years later, but for Abraham the pain endured during those eleven years came early and would continue to haunt him throughout his life as we see in Wrestling with my Demons.