Alaasuaq, Davidialuk

Hunter, artist, and storyteller born in the Nunavgirnarak winter camp (Nunavik) in 1910 – died in Puvirnituq (Nunavik) in 1976.

Davidialuk Alaasuaq, also known as Davidialuk Alasua Amittuq or simply Davidialuk among other names, was born in 1910 in the Nunagiirniraq winter camp on a small island in Hudson Bay, close to Puvirnituq. His mother Aqpatuq and his father Amittuq lived a traditional Inuit life and raised their son as hunter. In 1951, Davidialuk Alaasuaq moved to the village of Puvirnituq, Nunavik and began his artistic life sculpting ivory, wood, and soapstone. His carvings were inspired by the myths and legends he heard as a child from his namesake grandfather and in his adult life, he kept these stories alive in his art and his own storytelling. His family members are also accomplished artists: his wife Maina Aqurtu Assapa and his children, Johnny Amituk and Aisa Amittu, his nephew Davidee Anutigirk and his cousin Joe Talirunili.

For Davidialuk Alaasuaq, authenticity to the story behind the carving was paramount. He is quoted as saying : “When you carve a legend, you have to do exactly what the legend says […] you can present it however you wish, but you still have to execute what the legend says". His artist work is admired for its realistic portrayal of survival in the arctic world. In the 1970s, he changed to a paper medium, printmaking and included text in his drawings. His work was often featured by the Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec in their printed annual catalogue Povungnituq from 1962 to 1982, as well as in the magazine Inuit Art Quarterly. See for instance Eskimo Print Makers. Les graveurs esquimaux (1974). In 1974, Davidialuk Alaasuaq received an award for one of his designs, which was used to honour “Crafts for Arctic Canada. Artisanat de l’Arctique canadien”, an exhibition organized by the Canadian Eskimo Arts Council in the same year: see the exhibition catalogue Crafts from Arctic Canada. Artisanat de l'Arctique canadien (1974). Under the name Taivitialuk Alaasuaq, several of his legends are recorded in print, with photographs of his carvings in Zebedee Nungak and Eugene Arima’s bilingual illustrated books : Unikkaatuat sanaugarngnik atyingualiit Puvirngniturngmit. Eskimo stories from Povungnituk, Québec, illustrated in soapstone carvings (1969), Unikkaatuat sanuagarngnik atyingualiit Puvirngniturngmit. Légendes inuit de Povungnituk, Québec : figurées par des sculptures de stéatite (1975) and Inuit stories : Povungnituk. Légendes inuit : Povungnituk (1988). Davidialuk Alaasuaq’s sculptures and prints are found in the permanent collections of all the major art galleries in Canada: the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario), the Canadian Museum of History (Gatineau, Québec), the Glenbow Museum (Calgary, Alberta), the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal (Montréal, Québec) and the Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto, Ontario).

The Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec (FCNQ) honoured Davidialuk Alaasuaq’s life work in 1977 with a memorial exhibition at the Guild Shop (now Craft Ontario Shop) in Toronto, Ontario and a printed exhibition catalogue Davidialuk 1977. This bilingual (French and English) publication contains the legends and the images of the art they inspired as well as a biography written by anthropologist, Bernard Saladin d’Anglure who knew Davidialuk Alaasuaq for ten years before his accidental and sudden death in 1976. Also by Saladin d’Anglure, La parole changée en pierre : Vie et œuvre de Davidialuk Alasuaq, artiste inuit du Québec Arctique (1978) and its Inuktitut version entitled: Unikkaatuat ujaranngutitait: Taivitialuk Alasuaq inuusirminillu sanaugarminillu unikkaatuq (1981) records the life of and the stories told by Davidialuk Alaasuaq. His work is also displayed in Inuit 1993: Contemporary Inuit art from the Canadian Museum of Civilization. L’art inuit contemporain au Musée canadien des civilisations (1993).

This biography is based on the available written material during a collective research carried out during 2018-2021. It is possible that mistakes and facts need to be corrected. If you notice an error, or if you wish to correct something in an author's biography, please write to us at and we will be happy to do so. This is how we will be able to have more precise presentations, and to better promote Inuit culture.

(c) International Laboratory for Research on Images of the North, Winter and the Arctic, Université du Québec à Montréal, 2018-2021, Daniel Chartier and al.