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Ottokie Ashoona was born on December 17, 1970 in Cape Dorset, Baffin Island. He comes from a family of world-renowned Inuit artists: his late father Kaka and his uncle Kiawakwere the two most prominent Cape Dorset sculptors; his grandmother, Pitseolak Ashoona, was famous for her drawings and prints.
Ottokie learned to carve at a very young age. It is Ohito Ashoona, his step-brother and also a well-known sculptor, who exercised the greatest influence on Ottokie’s artistic development and expression. Often, they will carve together, and one can see many similarities between their carvings, especially Polar bears.
Like many Inuit artists, Ottokie draws his inspiration from Arctic wildlife. His favourite subject matter is the Polar bear, and he often portrays them swimming, crouching, sitting, sleeping, and on the prowl. His ability to capture the movement and vitality of the animal is remarkable.
Ottokie’s style is highly representative of Cape Dorset Art. It is rooted in a love of naturalism, but has incorporated an affinity for decorative stylization and dramatic expression.
Ottokie takes great care in choosing the stone. His carvings are made of the finest serpentine of varying green shades, often with gold veining, smoothed and highly polished to best exhibit the beauty of the stone.
Serpentine is a metamorphic rock unique to Baffin Island. It is a very hard stone with a composition similar to Jade.
As goddess of the ocean, Sedna sets strict rules about the proper way to treat the animals of the hunt, which the Inuit require for sustenance. This includes proper treatment of the animals’ spirit when killed for food. If she feels the rules have been broken, she cuts off the supply of food. When this happens, the Inuit tribal shaman is required to take a mystical journey to the bottom of the ocean to speak to the goddess. It is considered the most dangerous journey an Inuit shaman is called upon to make.
Upon arrival at the bottom of the sea the shaman is required to comb Sedna’s hair, because Sedna has no fingers to comb it herself, and to find out what the tribe has done wrong that the food has been cut off. The shaman then makes a deal with Sedna, promising that if the tribe corrects whatever transgressions it has made, the goddess will return their food supply. The shaman then returns to the tribe with the list of things the goddess requires to be done to get the food back.
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