In­ter­view: Bart Hanna

Mi­gra­tion, a mon­u­men­tal ship with a cast of unique char­ac­ters carved from a sin­gle block of stone weigh­ing over 700 pounds.

Inuit Art Quarterly - - CONTENTS - Alysa Pro­cida

The Iglu­lik artist dis­cusses Mi­gra­tion (2013), his largest and most com­plex art­work to date. In this exclusive in­ter­view Hanna re­veals de­tails of the work’s cre­ation, as well as the sto­ries of mi­gra­tion and re­lo­ca­tion that in­spired the piece.

That same year, IAF Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Alysa Pro­cida in­ter­viewed Hanna about this sig­nif­i­cant work when it was shipped to Toronto for dis­play.

Alysa Pro­cida: This piece is so in­cred­i­bly de­tailed. How long did it take you sculpt this?

Bart Hanna: This one, maybe six to seven months. It’s not that big, but it’s the most de­tailed, and it’s the most work I’ve ever done, so you might as well say it’s the big­gest piece. Hope­fully all the pieces af­ter this will be as big or bet­ter. That’s what I’m aim­ing at now.

AP: Was there some­thing about this piece that made you want to make it re­ally de­tailed?

BH: Since I had to get the stone all the way from Arc­tic Bay,1 when I was work­ing on the stone I thought about how long it took to get it and how much work it was. I tried not to waste too much and only threw out very small pieces.

AP: Since Mi­gra­tion is carved from a sin­gle piece of stone, it must have been huge. How did you get it out of the ground and bring it back?

BH: This stone was lucky enough to be on top of the other rocks, on the moun­tain side of Arc­tic Bay. You have to climb up the hill with

the ski­doo and a qa­mu­tiik (sled), but it can’t be too heavy be­cause oth­er­wise you won’t make it. To get the stone for Mi­gra­tion, we put it on a qa­mu­tiik with steel slid­ers and tied an­other big stone be­hind it to drag through the snow, so it wouldn’t slide too fast. We tried to con­trol it, but the stone was so heavy the rope snapped and it hit a bump, or a rock, and flew up in the air. We thought the qa­mu­tiik would be bro­ken, but it landed nicely on one side and no­body got hurt.

AP: Oh, that was lucky! When you went to get the stone, were you look­ing for a par­tic­u­lar piece be­cause you had this sculp­ture in mind, or did you find this piece and know that you wanted to carve this?

BH: It was kind of that shape, al­most like a bow, and [it made me] think of a boat right away. This boat is like one from a dream my grand­fa­ther had—it’s a shaman’s boat. [Edi­tor’s note: In a fur­ther writ­ten ver­sion, the artist ex­plained in his grand­fa­ther Kap­pi­anaq’s dream, his father Ge­orge Agiaq Kap­pi­anaq was healed of an in­fected hip by vis­it­ing shamans who ar­rived via ship.] I wanted to put as many carv­ings as pos­si­ble on that boat, but not too many inside.

Good shamans were good ser­vants; they were like doc­tors. If some­one was sick or hun­gry [they would] pro­vide food or cure them through su­per­nat­u­ral pow­ers. When the shamans were do­ing their rit­ual they had to [travel] a long dis­tance, to fly to the spirit. They were trav­el­ling to the spirit [in my grand­fa­ther’s dream].

AP: I want to ask you about some of my favourite parts of the piece. This sculp­ture re­minds me of a Vik­ing boat, and I was won­der­ing why there’s a dragon head on the front.

BH: I put that there be­cause I think [Kap­pi­anaq] saw a dragon in his dream, even though [he] never said, be­cause there’s no [Inuk­ti­tut word for] dragon. They needed a spirit [that] an­swers to the shaman. I put that dragon head on be­cause that boat is like a dream—it’s moved by the shamans, and so, it has to be spe­cial.

AP: The per­son at the front of the boat, is that your grand­fa­ther? Or is that a shaman?

BH: That would be a shaman. It could be my grand­fa­ther. My rel­a­tives—my an­ces­tors— were shamans.

AP: And the wal­rus stand­ing be­hind him, what does that fig­ure rep­re­sent?

BH: Also a shaman, but maybe com­ing from the Vik­ings. He has an an­chor on his shoul­der. I put him in there be­cause the Vik­ings were the first ones up here. That’s part of it too.

I had to make those guys part of it be­cause they were a big help, bring­ing tea and [trad­ing] ri­fles. They had to be­come part of [Mi­gra­tion], be­cause they were part of us any­way. To­bacco, tea and bis­cuits and ev­ery­thing else from the South, we needed that; it was a great help.

AP: Be­hind the wal­rus, is that also a shaman comb­ing Sedna’s hair?

BH: That one and the other woman are Sedna’s per­sonal hair­dressers, her helpers. Like any­one in high places, she had her own peo­ple. Sedna is so im­por­tant, like a queen. Sedna is so im­por­tant to me. I have to put her in when I make things.

I’m not a writer, I have to put it in the stone. My feel­ing is to share it with other peo­ple and hope they try to un­der­stand.

AP: And the last per­son on the boat?

BH: The one with tra­di­tional cloth­ing is im­por­tant in the boat: he’s like us. Peo­ple weren’t al­ways shamans, you had to be­come one. That’s the mean­ing of it. Like any­one else, you start work­ing by sweep­ing the floor, and later on in life, you be­come very good at some­thing. I’ve been carv­ing a long time and still, I want to be­come bet­ter.

AP: Is that a po­lar bear at the top of the nar­whal tusk?

BH: That would be a [look­out] bear, to see if there’s any land or ice nearby. Po­lar bears are very im­por­tant for some­one like me— a hunter. When we go on the ocean, they’re mostly on the ice. Some are pretty good, but some are mean. They have dif­fer­ent at­ti­tudes, like peo­ple. There are a lot of bears now, more than ever.

AP: Speak­ing of hunt­ing, you have used baleen, a nar­whal tusk and two wal­rus tusks for this piece. Did you hunt any of these an­i­mals your­self, or did you get them from peo­ple in your com­mu­nity?

BH: The nar­whal tusk I got from my friend, [and so,] I kept it for a long time. He gave it to me as a Christ­mas present, maybe 7 years ago. It took a long time [to carve], I think maybe a cou­ple of weeks. I had to work long, long hours and I put all my en­ergy in— ev­ery­thing I had. The wal­rus tusks I had to hunt in the spring­time. I don’t go out too much in the win­ter any­more be­cause it’s kind of dan­ger­ous.

AP: The ti­tle for this piece is in­ter­est­ing, in part be­cause it makes me think of an­other se­ries of pieces ti­tled Mi­gra­tion by Joe Talirunili from Pu­vir­ni­tuq. Did that in­flu­ence you at all?

BH: Yes, I’ve seen it; I think in an is­sue of the Inuit Art Quar­terly. A whole bunch of lit­tle peo­ple in a boat. I’d like to make one sim­i­lar to that, but I wanted to make this one dif­fer­ent from the oth­ers.

AP: RJ [Ram­rat­tan, Show­room Man­ager at Cana­dian Arc­tic Pro­duc­ers] and I were talk­ing, and we were say­ing that it re­minded both of us of more re­cent history in the Arc­tic, where cer­tain fam­i­lies were forced by the gov­ern­ment to move be­tween places, par­tic­u­larly the re­lo­ca­tions to Qausuit­tuq (Res­o­lute Bay) and Ausuit­tuq (Grise Fjord).

BH: It was very hard for them. And some­times, it’s very hard for me be­cause I don’t want to be mad. What they did to me— when they took us to the res­i­den­tial school— it’s a sim­i­lar feel­ing. It was very hard leav­ing our par­ents. For us at least, we were put in a warm place and go­ing to school every day, but those fam­i­lies were brought to an alien land that they didn’t know. Peo­ple were starving, hun­gry, and the gov­ern­ment wasn’t very hon­est with them. Things like that, it hurts. I’m hurt and some­times it’s very hard.

AP: I can’t imag­ine how hor­ri­ble any of that would have been, es­pe­cially as a young child. Be­cause you were born on the land, you weren’t born in a com­mu­nity, right?

BH: I was born on the land and we were al­ways out there. In the sum­mer­time we’d live in tents. In the win­ter I re­mem­ber living in a house. I was too young, but I knew at 7 years old I had to go to the res­i­den­tial school. We were forced to go with the nuns. I think the nuns thought, “We have to be like moth­ers to them.” But they were very dif­fer­ent from our moth­ers. As a child I was very aware and it was very hard. They [the Royal Cana­dian Mounted Po­lice] started putting us into the com­mu­ni­ties. It was a sud­den change.

The gov­ern­ment also started chang­ing names then. I was Bartholome­w Hanna, but my grand­fa­ther’s name was Kap­pi­anaq.

AP: You have signed your works Bart Hanna, but you also sign your last name Kap­pi­anaq too, is that right?

BH: Yes, my last name is Kap­pi­anaq. I was named af­ter a white mis­sion­ary [and] given the name Bartholome­w Hanna, but Kap­pi­anaq is im­por­tant be­cause that’s my grand­fa­ther’s [name], and that’s what Mi­gra­tion is about.

AP: There’s also a medicine bag on the boat. Is that a ref­er­ence to your sick father?

BH: That would be for peo­ple, to cure them; shamans were very im­por­tant for that.

Not be­cause they have a medicine bag, but for us we need to see some­thing that we don’t know; we need to look at some­thing, an ob­ject. With the medicine bag, it trans­fers a shaman’s word, or doc­tor’s or any­thing. That story—grand­fa­ther’s story—that’s the guy who car­ries the medicine bag, so that’s why I put that.

AP: It’s in­ter­est­ing be­cause this is one of the things that got me think­ing about the re­lo­ca­tions. One of the rea­sons the gov­ern­ment gave for mov­ing some Inuit off the land and into com­mu­ni­ties was that they were sick. Were you think­ing about any of those things?

BH: Maybe [the move] was good, be­cause there was a nurs­ing sta­tion and a life could be saved. There’s a lot of things I have put in there that I think about a lot. It’s all the things that hap­pened, and all the en­ergy I have to put out to be­come a bet­ter per­son. And what hap­pened in the past, all the feel­ings I have and what hap­pened to me and oth­ers, loved ones. All [of] that has to be in there, even though it’s not just one story.

AP: Do you think it’s im­por­tant for peo­ple in your com­mu­nity to see this kind of work?

BH: I think it’s very im­por­tant be­cause there’s some pain in there. I’m not a writer, I have to put it in the stone. My feel­ing is to share it with other peo­ple and hope they try to un­der­stand. [I want peo­ple to feel] in­spired. Maybe happy, but also in­spired. [That is] most im­por­tant. I hope they’re in­spired: peo­ple, chil­dren and artists. I hope it’ll help a bit.

This in­ter­view was con­ducted in the Spring of 2013. It has been edited for clar­ity and con­densed.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.