Silas Kayakjuak’s “Birthing”

Birthing, carving in bone, steatite
Copyright 1997, Silas Kayakjuak, All Rights Reserved.

The prolific Inuit carver, Silas Kayakjuak (Qayakjuak), has created numerous carvings that depict the birth moment. Visualizing Birth has featured Kayakjuak’s work previously (see previous posts, including Birthing the Old Way and Mother Giving Birth), and his work is also described in detail in Imagery, Ritual, and Birth: Ontology Between the Sacred and the SecularRaised by carvers and carving since his own childhood, Kayakjuak documents and upholds the traditional ways of his culture and heritage through the means of his artwork.

In Kayakjuak’s Birthing, pictured above, a crowning baby emerges from its mother. The woman appears to build up her strength as she squats and leans back to give birth. A second figure, likely a birth attendant, stands near to her as a witness and person of support during the moment of birth. The birthing woman’s mouth appears agape, as if she is breathing out the baby in this crucial phase of her labor.

The carving is helpful in the visualization of birth, helping laboring and birthing women who view it to normalize crowning and understand it to be a natural part of the birth process. The woman’s positioning is also helpful. Squatting enables the body to utilize gravity and the strength of leg and back muscles when birthing a child. The smooth off-white surface of the carving is also calming to the eye, an effect emphasized by the birth scene depicted–one in which a woman births her baby on her own while with the support of an attendant.

Silas Kayakjuak is an Inuit artist born in 1956 in Hall Beach, Nunavut Territory, Canada. Since the 1980s, he has been in Ottawa and has created numerous carvings, most often dedicative of the human form. His carvings have been featured in exhibitions in Canada. For more information on Kayakjuak’s work, see his page through Vancouver’s Spirit Wrestler Gallery.

Birthing by Silas Kayakjuak (different perspective)