Eskimo Realities.

A beautiful evocation of the Inuit culture, its orality, its spiritual essence, and its pictorial sensitivity.

p. [134] (most pages are unpaginated): There are several reasons why Eskimo art lacks perspective or the favored point of view. The primary one is absence of literacy. As with non-literate people generally, the Eskimo can perceive without difficulty what we regard as ‘inverted’ figures. Another reason is their attitude toward the ‘given.’ For example, walrus tusks are carved into aggregates of connected but unrelated figures: some face one direction, others another. No particular orientation is involved, nor is there a single ‘theme.’ Each figure is simply carved as it reveals itself in the ivory.

In handling these tusks I found myself turning them first this way, then that, orienting each figure in relation to myself. The Eskimo do not do this. They carve a number of figures, each oriented—by our standards—in a different direction, without moving the tusk. Similarly, when handed a photograph, they examine it as it is handed to them, no matter how it is oriented….

p. 137: Igloo walls are often covered with magazine pictures obtained from the trader. These reduce dripping; perhaps they are enjoyed for colors as well. Some—but little—effort is made at vertical rendering, and the over-all result is haphazard. When children wanted to imitate me, a sure way to provoke delighted laughter was to mimic my twisting and turning as I tried to look at the LIFE pictures.

p. 176: The object isn’t seen at an artistic remove: instead, the carver enters into it, mingles, fuses with it. He doesn’t remain apart contemplating, controlling, but to the extent his cognition impinges upon it, he participates in Seal-ness or Walrus-ness. This participation isn’t limited to the sense of sight, for Aivilik art doesn’t render the visible: it renders visible. It portrays not merely what is perceived, but what is known and true, and since truth here involves all senses, plus tradition and imagination, it enhances all cognition.

All essentials are therefore brought to the fore, including those made invisible by the optical. [See scene on p. 176.]

p. 197: Eskimo stone art was made for, used by, and believed in, solely by Westerners—that is, until recently. Now it also serves to give identity to the Eskimo themselves. Having deprived him of his heritage, and even the memory of his heritage, we offer him a substitute which he eagerly accepts, for no other is permitted. And so he takes his place on stage, side-by-side with the American Indian whose headdress comes from a mail-order catalog, who learned his dances at Disneyland, and picked up his philosophy from Hippies. He knows no other identity, and when he is shown the real treasures of his culture, when he hears the old songs and reads the ancient words, he aggressively says, ‘It’s a lie, a white man’s lie. Don’t tell me who I am or who my ancestors were. I know!’

Eskimo books : “List of Eskimo Books.” Manuscript in John Johnson Collection: Explorations box 1. Bodleian Library, Oxford University., n.d.

This short list of “Eskimo Books” is in the John Johnson collection of printed ephemera in the Bodley. The list contains 13 titles and 14 volumes but is largely indecipherable apart from a note at the bottom: “Books presented to the Hartwell Library. By Admiral Sir John Ross June 1853.” The list includes the Old Testament, New Testament (2 v.), 6 titles given in Inuktitut, a catechism, a spelling book, a book of history?, a question book?, and articles of religion. All are in Eskimo languages.