Unfortunately, when I saw the carving below, I fell in love. It represents one of the most interesting of the traditional northern games - the blanket toss. I will include some pictures and a video of the real thing below, but this is how the Northern Games Society website describes it:
"A large group of "pullers" gather around the edges of a blanket to stretch it out at waist height. After a participant climbs into the centre, the pullers rhythmically raise and lower the blanket. Upon the signal, the blanket is pulled taut and the participant in the center is tossed in the air, sometimes more than 6 metres (20 feet). The participant is expected to keep his or her balance and return upright - a particularly challenging feat if the participant does turns or flips while in the air.
The blanket toss originated with Inuit hunters because someone who was tossed into the air could spot caribou, whales, or other animals in the distance. Elders also speak of a time when the blanket toss was part of the ceremony to mark the close of a successful whaling season. Whaling captains were first to be tossed and while high in the air, they would throw gifts such as baleen and tobacco to the crowd.
In traditional times, the blanket was made of seal or walrus skins and a woven rope edging served as handles. The blanket used at the Northern Games today is made from canvas and is about 3 metres (10 feet) in diameter. Many
Inuvialuit agree that the traditional version of the blanket has more bounce."
Even though I resisted it for a week, as the price tag was hefty, I gave in and bought it as a birthday present for myself (my birthday is 6 months away, but never mind!). My very generous parents are going to make a contribution towards it - thanks Mum and Dad!
I don't really want to confess how much I spent, as it is more than I would usually spend on something decorative, but at the same time, it shows how prized Inuit art is. The original requested price was $2,000 (Canadian) but I got it for $1,600. It was made by a local artist from Inuvik called Patrick Nooyak Harrison - he agreed to let me take a photo of him with it, which I have included below. It feels good to support local talent and keep these skills alive.
And it has brought me a lot of joy - I smile every time I look at it. :)
Here are some photos of modern blanket toss jumpers, and an impressive youtube video shot at last summer's Aboriginal Day in Inuvik. The jumper had a camera attached to him, so you can see the scary view he had while jumping!