Born: 1951 Male
Abraham Anghik was born in Paulatuk, Northwest Territories. Abraham’s own great-grandparents, noted shamans Apakark and Kagun came from the Bering Sea region of Alaska in the late 1890’s. By the time of Abraham’s birth, Inuit culture was in the midst of a profound change that would forever alter their traditional way of life and set the stage for Abraham’s lifelong quest to re-discover and connect with his roots.
Abraham lived with his family on the land until the age of 8 following a traditional semi-nomadic Inuvialuit lifestyle moving between seasonal fishing and hunting camps surviving on caribou, moose, muskox, game birds, waterfowl and sea mammals. In 1955, when Ruben was four-years-old, his brother, David Ruben Piqtoukun, who was one year older and their older sister Martha, were the first of the 14 siblings sent to the residential school in Aklavik. David and Martha did not see their family again until 1958. Ruben represented the traumatic 1955 experience through his mother’s eyes in his 2001 sculpture entitled The Last Goodbye. In 1959, Ruben, his siblings and cousins were sent to the residential school, Grollier Hall, in Inuvik where he remained until 1970.
In the summer of 1971 Ruben began his formal studies in art under the guidance of Ronald Senungetuk, an Iñupiaq artist and art educator, who was head of the Native Arts Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. At the University’s Center he developed the understanding of how to combine traditional material and techniques with the contemporaneous interpretations of many myths and legends. Ruben pursued his artistic career over the next ten years.
Ruben works with a wide variety of materials including stone and bronze. His art work reflects and honours the traditional teachings of his Inuvialuit family and friends.
After surviving cancer in late 2004, inspired by the story of his maternal aunt, Paniabuluk, who became the Inuit wife of Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson and who assisted him on many of his expeditions, Abraham tells the stories of these encounters between Inuit and Viking Norse. He sees great similarities between the two cultures including the practice of shamanism and a respect and reverence for the land. He seeks to bring to life the experiences of the Vikings in North America from a contemporary view.
In the early 20th century other Nordic visitors overwintered in Ruben’s ancestral lands. Since then, Ruben has researched the cultures of northern territories, including those of Siberia, Scandinavia, Greenland and Iceland and found resonance between Inuit narratives and myths which is expressed through his art.
In 1986 Abraham moved to British Colombia where he continues to live and work with his wife Patricia Donnelly and their children.
Abraham was inducted into the Order of Canada, one of Canada’s highest honours, in 2016. His work has been exhibited internationally and can be found in numerous collections such as the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the National Gallery of Canada, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Prince of Whales Northern Heritage Center and much more.