Norman Hallendy Collection, Ottawa
In Historic times (the 19th century and possibly into the early 20th) Iglulingmiut women wore an interesting style of long boot whose design included quite large side pouches, used for extra storage. The pouches on this carving are distinctive enough to suggest the Igloolik region as its source (although the design was not exclusive to this area). The carving was originally thought to have originated in the northwest coast of Hudson Bay, which is not too far away.
This important Historic Period carving is one of the most stunning early artworks we have seen. While many early ivories are charming and historically interesting, few can match this small sculpture for sheer artistic merit. One fascinating feature of this work is the addition of stone soles to the boots. These may represent darker, tougher sealskin, or perhaps the even tougher bearded seal or walrus, used as soles.
References: for an 1874 lithograph depicting Iglulik women wearing leggings with exaggerated pouches and a replica pair see Jill Oakes and Rick Riewe, Our Boots: An Inuit Women’s Art (Douglas & McIntyre, 1995) p. 77. For a pattern drawing and a replica pair see Betty Kobayashi Issenman, Sinews of Survival: The Living Legacy of Inuit Clothing (UBC Press, 1997) p. 131.
First Arts: Inuit & First Nations Art Auction www.firstarts.ca