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For The First Time An Inuit Artist Has A Solo Show At The Smithsonian In Washington D.C.
October 30, 2012
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If you're in the Washington D.C. area before the end of the year, be sure to check out this exhibit at the Smithsonian.

It's by Abraham Anghik Ruben, the first Inuit sculptor to get a solo show at the Smithsonian's American Indian Museum.

"For myself, it's an exhibition that I've been waiting 40 years for. It's taken 40 years to get to this stage in my life, and I'm extremely pleased with the events and the effort that went into making this exhibit," Ruben told CBC News.

The exhibit is called Arctic Journeys/Ancient Memories: The Sculpture of Abraham Anghik Ruben.

At the heart of it are 23 of his sculptures, which reflect the core beliefs of the Inuit people, including the idea that we "must have reverence for all creation."

His pieces also incorporate stories about the ancient Inuit and the Vikings meeting in the far North 1000 years ago.

"I'm using the idea of the inevitable consequences of contact as a way to put forward ideas and stories, images in stone," Ruben said.

"There may not be the evidence in Inuit sagas, but when two peoples meet and have a relationship that lasts for several hundred years, a lot of things happen including warfare, trade, intermarriage, collective hunting, exchange of cultural ideas and exchange of technology."

Here's a video showcasing Ruben's work. He also talks about the themes he's exploring.

Ruben - who works in bone, stone, ivory and bronze - has worked as an artist since the 1970s. Along the way, he's studied Norse culture and mythology.

Museum curator Bernadette Driscoll Engelstad said there's new archeological evidence that the Inuit and Vikings came in contact on North Baffin Island and Ellesmere Island.

"I think what Abraham has done is in some way brought [cultural myths] in a monumental way, so they really face us and they move into our spaces," Engelstad said. "(He) makes us realize the importance of this history, the importance of the history of native peoples throughout the Americas."

Ruben's work also explores the effects of climate change in the Arctic.

He says he has come "to understand that it all comes down to too much ice or too little ice, either extreme cold or warming trends and everything goes haywire."

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Ruben grew up in Paulatuk in the Northwest Territories. His father was a hunter and his mother was a seamstress, but he went to a residential school in Inuvik, and only went home during the summers.

He studied design at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, then set up his studio off the coast of British Columbia, on Salt Spring island.

The museum says more than half a million people could see the exhibit. It runs until January 2, 2013.

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