Art is a Voice


1951 –

Born: Winter camp, Paulatuk, Northwest Territories
Current Residence: Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

Anghik Ruben’s early life was spent in a nomadic lifestyle, with the daily pursuit of food and shelter a never-ending cycle. These early years gave him the foundation of family, cultural and spiritual ties to the Inuit way of life, and a sense of spirit of place.

This family-oriented life was severed at the age of eight when Anghik Ruben, along with his siblings and cousins, were rounded up and sent to the distant government town of Inuvik to attend the residential school, Grollier Hall. With stark realism and terror, he recalls his first day and induction into what would become a lifetime nightmare.

“I have many memories of those years and for the most part they were devoid of love, humanity, and compassion. Devoid of the guidelines and the true morals and ethics that make sincere men and women of children. It is little wonder that my generation and my parents’ generation were so physically and psychologically in need of healing—the spiritual healing that would take years to manifest itself.”

Abraham Anghik Reuben. Photo: Darlene Coward Wight
Abraham Anghik Ruben.Kittigazuit, 1999–2000. Whale bone, Brazilian soapstone, African wonderstone. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Commissioned from the artist. Acquired with funds from The WAG Foundation Inc. and with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance program/Oeuvre achetée avec l'aide du programme d'aide aux acquisitions du Conseil des Arts du Canada, 1999-616. Photo: Ernest Mayer
Abraham Anghik Ruben. Lost Souls (detail), 1999. Brazilian soapstone. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Gift of Tradition Fine Foods Ltd., 2004-28 a-u. Photo: Ernest Mayer

Life of an Artist

Anghik Ruben left school in 1970, not having completed grade 10. A year later, he enrolled at the University of Alaska’s Native Art Center, knowing that the occupation and life of an artist was meant for him.

“I have chosen to be a storyteller for my people, through the medium of sculpture. Within these images, I attempt to draw from the audience a range of thoughts, feelings, and emotions stirring within them; these same thoughts, feelings, and emotions I have wrought into the work.

I no longer speak my mother tongue, yet I need to do my part in carrying on the stories, cultural myths, and legends, and spiritual legacy of our people. My hope is that my hands and spirit within will allow me this one gesture.”

Abraham Anghik Ruben. Composition (Shaman and Bear Spirits), 2005. Brazilian soapstone. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Gift of John and Verlie Donald, 2016-433. Photo: Ernest Mayer
Abraham Anghik Ruben. Into the Sunset, 1999. Brazilian soapstone, antler. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Gift of Samuel and Esther Sarick, 2004-31.1 to 11. Photo: Ernest Mayer