How did the narwhal get its tusk? Nunavut man's artistic answer wins first prize in national contest
'I was at work and I threw up my arms and I was trying to contain my excitement,' says Alexander Angnaluak
How did the narwhal get its tusk?
Alexander Angnaluak from Kugluktuk, Nunavut drew his colourful interpretation and it struck gold at this year's national Indigenous Arts and Stories contest organized by Historica Canada.
The 24-year-old took first place in the senior category for his piece "How the Narwhal Came to Be" from more than 500 submissions this year.
He used pen and pencil on watercolour paper to create a visual of a traditional Inuit story of the whale with the distinct tusk.
Angnaluak said he's unsure when or where he heard the old tale, but he recalled it as a two part story.
"First part of the story is about the blind boy... He loses his vision because of his mother. She blinds him one night," Angnaluak said.
The boy eventually regained his sight with the help of a loon. Then, in an act of vengeance, he tied his mother's hair onto a harpoon and threw it into a beluga whale.
The beluga drags his mother into the sea.
"[Her hair] twisted so tightly that it became a narwhal tusk," Angnaluak said. "That's why the narwhal tusk is a spiral and she herself turned into a narwhal."
'Ecstatic' and 'honoured'
Angnaluak said he was "ecstatic" when he found out he won first place.
"I was at work and I threw up my arms and I was trying to contain my excitement," he said.
Angnaluak said he feels "honoured" to be recognized for his artistic abilities, especially since he recently started to be more serious about art. He plans on taking a fine arts course at Ottawa's Algonquin College.
Angnaluak will be honoured in Ottawa at the Governor General's History Awards in October.
With files from Eva Michael