Woman with Topknot

West Greenland



This sculpture appears to be a melding of traditional Inuit imagery with the more western style of sculpture, introduced with the coming of Europeans to the island. The woman wears the traditional topknot, an image that continues to be associated with Greenlandic Inuit art and performance today. The presentation and modeling however are more European in style. This extremely compelling sculpture holds its own with both ancient and contemporary depictions of heads.

The Inuit of Greenland traditionally shared many of the artistic expressions found in the Canadian Arctic. Small figures and amulets were fashioned out of antler and ivory while graphic expression was limited to tattoo marks, clothing patterns and decoration on tools. However, the dominating influence of Europeans came centuries earlierthan in the Canadian Arctic so that Greenlandic art became a mix of Inuit traditional artists expression with western style. The one form of traditional art which survived is the tupilak. Once an important part of Greenlandic religious beliefs these shaman/monster depictions were considered immensely powerful and mystical. Over the last half century, the distinctive characteristics of traditional tupilaks, such as animal like form, clutching hands and large mouths have become popular. The tradition carries on through today with several of the Inuit communities still creating these complex, strange sculptures.