High Arctic Haulers·Video

Igloolik's Master Carver relies on the annual sealift to bring coveted sculptures to buyers

Living in an isolated community in the Arctic, sculptor Bart Hanna is always on a deadline to complete his works of art in time for the one cargo ship of the year to pick them up.

For this Nunavut-based artist, a once-a-year cargo ship is a vital link to the art market in Southern Canada

Igloolik's Master Carver

3 years ago
Duration 2:04
Bart Hanna, the Master Carver of Igloolik, Nunavut, has his work displayed in both public and personal collections all over the world. Living in an isolated community, he relies on cargo ships to get his work into the hands of buyers, but that's not always easy.

"He has work all over the world. And his work is phenomenal. He's just amazing," says Merlyn Recinos. 

As Igloolik's economic development officer, Recinos is tasked with helping his remote Nunavut community thrive. Located north of the Arctic Circle, the population is rich in talented artists, including soft-spoken Bart Hanna, world-renowned Inuit Master Carver. 

I'm not only trying to make money, I'm putting all of my energy into it.- Bart Hanna

To get his sculptures into the hands of buyers, Hanna relies on the annual sealift, a cargo shipping system that transports goods between isolated communities like Igloolik and southern Canada. If his pieces aren't ready when the sealift arrives, he may have to wait up to an entire year for the next opportunity to deliver his work and, therefore, to see a payday.

"I'm not only trying to make money, I'm putting all of my energy into it," says Hanna, who can work on a single sculpture for months, or even years.

Bart was commissioned to design a new piece for Parliament Hill in honour of the 20th anniversary of Nunavut's creation in 1999. His masterpiece, Sedna, was unveiled in the House of Commons in April 2019.

Master carver Bart Hanna works on a sculpture of Inuit sea goddess Sedna in Igloolik, Nunavut. (High Arctic Haulers/CBC)

The Inuit sea goddess is the inspiration for several of Bart's sculptures, including a recent piece made of northern marble, titled Sedna, Inuit Goddess of the Sea.

This one is the hardest I've ever done. It really trained me to become a real artist," says Hanna. 

The piece, featured in the video above, is expected to sell for tens of thousands of dollars to an art gallery in Ontario.