Inuit Tupilaks from East Greenland

An Inuit tupilak was an avenging monster fabricated by a practitioner of witchcraft or shamanism using various objects such as animal parts (bone, skin, hair, sinew, etc.) and even parts taken from the corpses of children. The creature was given life by ritualistic chanting.  After that, the Inuit tupilak was placed into the sea to seek and destroy a specific enemy.

The use of a tupilak was considered risky, as if it was sent to destroy someone who had greater magical powers than the one who had formed it, it could be sent back to kill its maker instead. The  maker of the tupilak could escape by public confession of their deed. Because the tupilak was made in secret, in isolated places and from perishable materials, none have been preserved.

Early European visitors to Greenland were fascinated by the native legends of tupilaks. Since the visitors wanted to know what tupilaks actually looked like, Inuit artists began to carve representations of them out of sperm whale teeth. During the past century tupilaks of many different shapes have been carved from various materials such as narwhal, walrus tusk, wood, and caribou antler. Tupilaks are an important part of Greenlandic Inuit art. Consequently, tupilaks are highly prized as collectibles.

The carvers from the villlage of Kulusuk (Kap Dan) are among the best. The tupilaks made in the village of Kulusk have shapes and forms which have been influenced by the input from American and Eruopean interests.

The tupilak is gradually losing its evil intent. Only in rare instances will a Greenlander use his tupilak to bring disaster or misfortune to his neighbor. Today the artists are carving tupilaks that display the spell of goodness, of laughter, humor and kindness. The carvers create what they vision in their dreams, and from what others have told them and from their own experiences with fellow men. The tupilaks still assume “unnatural forms” as did the original tupilaks.

In 1975 the CITES (the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) international agreement between governments was adopted. In this agreement, the use of sperm whale ivory for carvings was banned. During recent times, most of the tupilaks have been carved from caribou antler. Our tupilaks offered for sale have been carved by Native Inuit artists in East Greenland. The older tupilaks have been carved from sperm whale ivory.

Tribal Crafts offers for sale Inuit tupilaks from East Greenland crafted with the FINEST DETAIL

Discover the fascinating world of Inuit tupilaks on our website. Appreciate the intricate craftsmanship of these unique sculptures.

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