International Journal of Art & Design Education

Inuit Art and Culture as Sources for Art Education

Volume 2.2   1983



The Inuit culture appears at first to be infinitely far removed from our own society, in more ways than geographically. In the Inuit societies, the shaman-artist-poet-priest acts as a kind of mediator or interpreter of the Eskimo collective unconscious, and his art helps him to enact his role. Artefacts have been found in Inuit burial grounds where the occupant was most probably a tribal shaman. Inuit traditional art is three-dimensional and was primarily intended to be held in the hand. Artefacts are very small and present an accurate insight into the transference of ideas, and the Eskimo concept of sound and space. The author discusses the role of the eidetic memory in Inuit art, and makes comparisons between shamanistic art and Jungian thought, particularly the dangerous duality of the unconscious. Eskimo ritualistic art embodies spiritual affinities with the concept of wholeness, the fusion of body and mind. The paper is illustrated with examples of Inuit art and shamanistic masks.