Nunavik artist says working on giant qulliq carving for recovery centre in Arctic Quebec “an honour”

Mattiusi Iyaituk, an carver, sculptor and artist from Ivujivik, Nunavik, Quebec, says he’s fortunate to be working on the qulliq project. (Courtesy Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre)

The artist responsible for the giant stone qulliq carving for the new Nunavik recovery centre in northern Quebec says participating in the project is an honour for him.

“I’m very fortunate to have been enlisted to do the job,” Mattiusi Iyaituk said in a phone interview. “It’s an honour.”

The Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre was founded in 1994 and serves people from all communities in Nunavik, the Inuit region of northern Quebec.

It offers a 42-day, culturally relevant healing program for those suffering from substance abuse issues.

The new building will open in 2023 and the giant qulliq will be the focal point in the lobby.

The 1.2-ton rock that will be used for the project. Mattiusi Iyaituk says working on such a big carving has no particular creative or technical challenges but that it requires the use of power tools like angle and die grinders. (Courtesy Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre)

Iyaituk, whose career as an artist and sculptor spans decades, says contributing a carving for a place where people go to heal themselves makes the work even more meaningful.

“It’s a place for people that have personal problems. They go there and professional people work with them to make them feel better about life. It’s important.

The qulliq is being made out of 1.2-ton rock sourced from the Raglan Mine in Nunavik, and has important significance, Iyaituk said.

“When we were still living in igloos and tents, before there were buildings, the stone and the land was the most important thing in our life. The qulliq was the most important thing a woman would have. Dog team travelling was slow travelling then. Men would also have a portable small qulliq, usually about six inches long and sometimes smaller.” 

The new Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, Quebec. “It’s a place for people that have personal problems,” Mattiusi Iyaituk said. “They go there and professional people work with them to make them feel better about life. It’s important.” (Courtesy Isuarsivik Regional Recovery Centre)

Iyaituk started carving when he was 14 saying he was inspired by watching his older brother.

He went on to occasionally teach carving and has also been asked to teach sculpting at the new centre when it opens, something he is already looking forward to, he says.

“I’ve taught soapstone carving to students in Montreal. It’s good at the end. The students are very proud.”

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn@cbc.ca 

Related stories from around the North: 

Arctic: Inuit artists in their own words, Eye on the Arctic

Canada: Canadian snow carvers to compete at international contest in Sweden, CBC News

Finland: How not to promote Arctic tourism: Why Finland’s Sami say marketing their region needs to change, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Nunavut children’s books translated for circulation in Greenland’s schools, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Russia adds ancient sites along Norway’s border to cultural heritage list, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden, Norway team up to preserve ancient rock carvings, Radio Sweden

United States: American cartoonist says his new book on Canadian Indigenous history helped decolonize part of himself, CBC News

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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