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AXANGAYUK  SHAA 1937 – 2019

“Aqjangajuk, who began carving in the lae 1950’s, does not do a great deal of detailing; instead he works for a total effect, concentrating on special interaction, expressive qualities and overall from. While some of his carvings of human and animal subjects are compact, robust, solid and static, others are more open, outwardly thrusting, dynamic forms. His only print, “Wounded Caribou” (1961) is a very effective portrayal of an animal stricken by a hunter’s arrow.”* 

Aqjangajuk Shaa is the grandson of Kiakshuk, and the only child of Munamee Shaa, who was a carver and Paunichea, who was a well-known graphic artists. His wife, Kilabuk Shaa, is also a carver. Three of their sons, Pudalik, Qiatsuq and Qavavau Shaa are also carvers in Cape Dorset. 

*Jean Blodgett, “The Canadian Encyclopedia” (Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1985), Page 68. 

Axangayuk Shaa, one of Cape Dorset’s finest artists. Best known for his carvings of dancing animals, particularly the walrus, his earlier sculptures focused on spirits, shamans and traditional camp life. 

Axangayuk began carving in the mid 1950’s at the behest of James Houston and over the next 60 years he created some of the most sought after and admired work of his generation.

Axangayuk was a natural sculptor and a proponent of sculpture in the round, emphasizing the qualities of volume, space and texture in his carvings. His subjects were suggested by the shape of the stone and although he shunned details, his work was imbued with a dynamic energy and dramatic expression. Blessed with a robust constitution,  Axangyauk  continued working up until the last few months of his life.

Axangayuk was often asked to try his hand at drawing or printmaking but he preferred the physical process of carving stone. He did however create one of the most successful prints in the history of the Cape Dorset Annual Print collection, a 1961 stone cut titled ‘Wounded Caribou.’ Last year he hearkened back to that image, creating one of the most popular prints of the 2018 collection as well as a series of original drawings and etchings.

Axangayuk was a quiet, kind and dignified man with a dry wit and an infectious smile. He will be missed by his family, his many friends and neighbors in the community and by all those who appreciate Inuit art.


 Musée canadien des civilisations, Artefacts = Canadian Museum of Civilization, Artefacts