Cry of the Ancestors

Born in a remote Arctic hunting camp on hauntingly beautiful Baffin Island, Manasie had a traditional upbringing-a way of life that has remained essentially unchanged for thousands of years.

Small Inuit communities would battle for survival against the harsh climate and the risk of famine. While the men followed the caribou and seal across the boundless ice and snow, the children were left behind with relatives too old to hunt. Manasie’s grandparents were prolific carvers and Manasie would help them quarry stone, often using discarded chips to shape small animals and figures.

As a young man he put aside carving to marry and raise a family. But tragedy struck when a house fire claimed his wife and two small sons. Two weeks later Manasie moved down south. Almost immediately, and for the first time in his life, he started sculpting seriously. But isolated from the family he had lost and life and places he had known, Manasie faced new difficulties. Carving was a way of shifting his concentration-of coping.

His unique works respond to the pressures of modern urban life, but also draw deeply on Inuit legends and his Arctic experience. From small animals to large, mythic works, there is always a respect for the balance in the natural world-the interdependency of animals and humans.

Cry of the Ancestors follows Manasie from the Earth Spirit Festival in Toronto to Arctic Bay on the northern tip of Baffin Island. There he seeks out ancient whale bones discarded by the whalers at the turn of the century and the inspiration that is vital to his work. Manasie talks about the meaning of his art and the process of creation. And we see him at work on his latest carving, entitled “Cry of the Ancestors,” which is to be unveiled in Montreal in the summer of 1994 .as part of that city’s 350th anniversary.

Produced by Breakthrough Films & Television Inc. (Ira Levy, Peter Williamson and Barri Cohen) in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation with funding from Telefilm Canada and the Ontario Film Development Corporation and with the assistance of Rogers Telefund and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

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