The world in objects

The making of a tupilak and its consequenses

The Inuit, the original inhabitants of Greenland, used to make creatures called ‘tupilak’ which were meant to cause disaster to others. In a series of four drawings from 1934, the Greenland artist Kavkajik Kȃrale Andreassen, Kȃrale in short, shows us how this worked.

1. In the foreground, an old woman is sitting on a rock. She is jealous of the young married couple with whom she lives in the tent, the man being a great hunter. In the distance, we see him just returning with three large seals behind his kayak, his wife walking toward him from the tent. The old woman, seated at a child’s grave, is preparing calamitous means for making a tupilak; she’s holding a piece of flesh from a corpse in her hand and a skull lies at the right of her feet.

2. The old woman places the piece of flesh in the entrance of the tent, so that the hunter will tread on it while entering, which may bring him misfortune, perhaps even death. However, the hunter has hidden himself behind a piece of rock and sees what the woman is up to.

3. The tupilak made by the woman is comprised of a human skull, a gull’s body, a raven’s paw and a dog’s paw. In the background, we see the young married couple leaving, feeling no longer safe after what the man has seen. The small horn on the hood of the man’s anorak is intended to keep away evil. It indicates that he has certain supernatural qualities giving him power over supernatural creatures, such as the tupilak. This causes the tupilak to look the other way, failing to notice the married couple.

4. Here we see the dramatic ending: the tupilak has killed the old woman remaining behind alone. When a tupilak encounters a much stronger adversary, as was the case here, it will turn against its maker, who will then be irretrievably lost.

These drawings are currently in the depot of the Museon and can not be seen in the exhibition!

 

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Placing the tupilak

The old woman places the piece of flesh in the entrance of the tent

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The couple is feeling no longer safe

The couple is feeling no longer safe.

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The tupilak has turned against its maker

The tupilak has turned against its maker.

Location

Greenland