Description of Crawler Tupilak #1

Master Inuit artist Mathias Ulriksen from Kulusuk has expertly carved a crawler tupilak from caribou antler. This particular piece, known as tupilak #1, measures 5 inches in length, 1.5 inches in width, and 1 inch in height. It features many ribs, a characteristic detail that adds to its unique and eerie aesthetic.  Collectors highly seek crawler tupilaks like this one for their cultural significance and craftsmanship. You can purchase tupilak #1 for $325.

The Cultural and Historical Significance of Tupilaks

Tupilaks represent a fascinating aspect of Greenlandic Inuit art, rich in history and cultural meaning. These spiritual creatures have appeared in Inuit art for centuries. Historically, Inuit shamans used tupilaks not just as artistic representations but as tools to cast spells on their enemies, imbuing them with a sense of mysticism and power.

Early European explorers and visitors to Greenland were captivated by the legends surrounding tupilaks. As a result, their curiosity led the Inuit to start carving these figures from various materials, initially from sperm whale teeth. Over the past century, artists have crafted tupilaks from a diverse range of materials, including narwhal tusk, walrus tusk, wood, and caribou antler. Thus, each material adds a unique texture and feel to the carvings, making them prized collectibles.

Modern Interpretations and Characteristics

Today, tupilaks come in many shapes and sizes, often depicting human and animal forms. Modern carvings continue to reflect the spiritual and mythical elements of their origins. For instance, many erect figures feature skeletal motifs or rib indications, symbolizing mythical figures or the spirits of the dead. Consequently, these motifs enhance the visual complexity of the pieces and their narrative depth.

In particular, the skeleton motif represents the spirits of the dead. According to Inuit beliefs, these spirits could reveal themselves in human form but with distinct animal characteristics, creating a fascinating blend of the human and the supernatural.

Collecting Tupilaks

For collectors, tupilaks offer a piece of Inuit culture and history. Their unique designs, cultural significance, and the skill required to carve them make each piece a valuable addition to any collection. Therefore, Mathias Ulriksen’s crawler tupilak #1 exemplifies this art form, embodying both traditional and modern aspects of tupilak carving.

For more information on tupilaks and to view a selection of these remarkable carvings, visit Tribal Crafts. Additionally, explore the book “Art of Greenland: Sculpture Crafts” by Bodil Kaalund for an in-depth look at Greenlandic Inuit art, including the history and evolution of tupilaks, available on AbeBooks.

caribou antler crawler tupilak

Mathias Ulriksen    Inuit

Caribou antler crawling tupilak – 1 x 5 x 1.5 inches  

$325