Wednesday, July 9, 2008
The finished picture has more vibrant colors than I am able to get here. I used Prismacolor pencils on Bristol 500 board.
The storyteller was an elderly Iñupiat Eskimo who lived above the Arctic Circle in the fishing community of Kotzebue, Alaska. As a young person she had lived a traditional nomadic life from winter camp to fishing camp and back. In winter especially, storytelling and singing were the only form of entertainment. There is a wealth of stories involving hunter and hunted which illustrates the mutual dependence of the people and their quarries. I took a snapshot of her as she was deep into her long transformation tale. This is the gist of it:
It was winter, Grandmother was alone in her camp while her hungry family was looking for food. The bear wandered in; he, too, was hungry. Grandmother held him at bay while making a clever bargain with him: he could kill her and eat her but, in exchange, once she was within him she would drive him to her people so they in turn could kill him/her and be fed. Hence the "transformation" label. Though the story seems a bit gory to us, it was told with a lot of humor and witty repartees as both the bear and Grandmother thought they had gotten the best from the other.
The motif in the background comes from a transformation carving I bought from a local artist.