This almost two feet tall Brazilian soapstone sculpture, dark green and marbled lightly with white, depicts a circle of early Viking settlers in Iceland. The group of four women, four men and four children form a tight circle facing outwards. The men holding swords may be protectors, like Odin, a principal god in Norse mythology. The women may represent Frey, a sea goddess, protecting children who peer over their heads. The base of the sculpture represents ice and licks of fire, the hardships of these settlers.
Ruben was born in 1951 in a camp south of Paulatuk, Northwest Territories and east of the Mackenzie River Delta. This region is home to the Mackenzie Inuit or Inuvialuit. The late 1890s would see the arrival of large-scale commercial whaling fleets into the region, soon followed by an influx of Inuit from Alaska. By the time of Ruben’s birth, Inuit culture was in the midst of a profound change that would forever alter their traditional way of life. Up until the age of 8 Abraham lived with his family on the land migrating with the changing patterns of the seasons. As it had been for thousands of years, life was hard and the family needed to rely on the skills and efforts of all members to ensure survival in one of the harshest environments on earth. In the late 1950s, Abraham and his brothers were sent away to residential schools. His life during the 11 years of the school have haunted him. This and more set the stage for Ruben’s lifelong quest to re-discover and connect with his roots. Stories, myths and legends of ancient Northern cultures find new life and expression through his work.
"I have always tried to learn from others, either Inuit or other elderly people who can pass on their knowledge of what life is about. I try to put that into my sculpture." Abraham Anghik Ruben