MARY QAYUARYUK (1908-1982)
The Sparham Collection of Inuit Art, Wales, U.K.
Terry Ryan has remarked on the respect that Mary Qayuaryuk (Kadjuajuk) commanded in the presence of other artists, similar to that of Kiakshuk and other older generation community leaders. Perhaps it had something to do with her stoicism in the face of adversity. Settlement Manager R.D. Sparham (see page 56, Waddington’s spring live auction catalogue) has written of her remarkable life. He tells of the time her mother and sisters were attacked by a polar bear, leaving only her one sister alive but mauled. That was not her only tragic story, as three months before he met Mary her whole family had almost been killed from eating poisoned seal meat. “Her husband, her son and a son-in-law all died from botulism poisoning.” However Mary promptly adopted her son’s boys and set-up a one room house with them, eking out a living for this little family by carving soapstone. Sparham describes her carving as “having a robust and primitive grace - and this piece of a standing woman is a good example. She has great humour and this shows in her marvelous quirky felt pen pictures which she does for the Eskimo Co-op. I have an example of such a picture in which a walrus’s head is humourously sticking out of the top of a skin tent!”
In 1971, Mary was the only woman elected to the Settlement Council. Sparham remembers, “She always fell asleep during policy discussions and upon awakening would raise a matter of local concern about the condition of the road near somebody’s house, or the failure to deliver water to such and such dwelling.”