Helen Kalvak, Inuit / Canadian, 1901 - 1984
Canadian Inuit
Central Arctic



Pen on paper

Image: 18 × 23 1/2 in. (45.7 × 59.7 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Gift of Jane and Raphael Bernstein



Place Made: Ulukhaktok, Inuvik, Canada, North America


20th century

Object Name


Research Area

Native American

Native American: Arctic-Central and Eastern


Not on view


Signed, in graphite, lower left: KALVAK; inscribed, in grphite, loower left: 7?; Embossed: Holman chop [ulu with word HOLMAN]


Helen Kalvak is known for her distinctive depictions of shamanism and animals communicating with people. Her father was a respected angakuq, or shaman, and passed much of his special knowledge down to her—knowledge she shared through her artistic works. In the print, above, which may depict an Inuit morality tale cautioning against cannibalism, even in the face of starvation, the head with wings attached represents the man eater. Birds are commonly depicted as carrying spirits into the afterlife, which may indicate the man eater has died.

In the drawing, below, the central shaman figure wears a dance hat made of sealskin, with the pelt of an ermine attached to the bill of a loon at the top. A woman in the background carries a child in the hood of her amautik, or woman’s coat. It is possible she may be singing or chanting and that the scene is taking place indoors, because she is shown kneeling.

From the 2021 exhibition A Legacy for Learning: The Jane and Raphael Bernstein Collection, curated by Jami C. Powell, Curator of Indigenous Art; Katherine W. Hart, Senior Curator of Collections and Barbara C. & Harvey P. Hood 1918 Curator of Academic Programming; John R. Stomberg Ph.D, Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director; Jessica Hong, Associate Curator of Global Contemporary Art; and Melissa McCormick, Professor of Japanese Art and Culture at Harvard University

Course History

SART 20/SART 71, Drawing II/Drawing III, Jack Wilson, Fall 2022

Exhibition History

Inuit Art

Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, Legacy for Learning: The Jane and Raphael Bernstein Collection, Class of 1967 Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire, September 4, 2021–February 6, 2022.

Publication History

John R. Stomberg, A Legacy for Learning: The Jane and Raphael Bernstein collection; Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College, Hood Museum of Art, 2021, Plate 29, p.54, listed p.99.


Canadian Guild of Crafts, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; sold to Jane and Raphael Bernstein, Ridgewood, New Jersey, September 1, 1973; lent to present collection, 2011; given to present collection, 2013.

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