Born in 1924 in Baker Lake, Barnabus Arnasungaaq was an early participant in the Baker Lake carving program established in the sixties. Although he created a number of prints and drawings during his career, Barnabus is first and foremost recognized as a leading figure in contemporary Inuit sculpture. His late wife, Fanny Arngnakik, was a graphic artist and carver, while his sons, David Arnasungaaq and Norman Arnasungaaq, are also carvers.
Barnabus carves exclusively with the hard black steatite stone found in the Kivalliq region of the north, which resists fine details and tends to encourage a tactile quality and a sense of monumentality. He prefers using simple hand tools that allow him to fully sense the stone and its natural materiality, and he shuns the use of masks or safety goggles that obscure his ability to work. Despite this, Barnabus takes his role as a mentor seriously and encourages other carvers to use precaution when working.
He was first included in the 1964 exhibition, “Eskimo Carvers of Keewatin, N.W.T.” held at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and he has exhibited consistently since then. Over the course of his career, Barnabus has been featured in over 100 group and solo shows in Canada, the United States, and internationally. Today Barnabus’ work can be found in important collections across Canada, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the UBC Museum of Anthropology, and the National Gallery of Canada.