Winter Games showcase
Northern artists prepare collection for the Arctic Winter Games

by Janet Smellie
Northern News Services

NNSL (Nov 10/97) - Hundreds of beluga and bowhead bones, otherwise tossed aside along the vast shores of Nunavut, will soon be put to good use.

Yellowknife-based carver Bob Kussey, whose private business is keeping him busy, is gearing up to help turn the whale bones into showpieces for the upcoming Arctic Winter Games next March.

Kussey says he came up with the idea during one of his visits to the family of his wife, Goota Ashoona, in Cape Dorset. There, after "scouring the shores, I found amazing pieces that can easily be turned into major showcases."

Pond Inlet carver Billy Merkosak is also contributing to the project, with "boxes of bones" he's collected from his community.

After getting the support of the Arctic Winter Games Committee, Kussey and his fellow carver are now in the process of finding support from airlines and people who will help ship the materials to Yellowknife so they can get to work.

"We're also going to do a couple of pieces to donate for fundraising for the Games," Kussey says. "We're also hoping to offer some installations for city hall, the airport and major public venues so we can carry the theme of the Games -- social gathering and interaction."

Individual carvings, he says, will be made to offer to the chef de missions who will travel to Yellowknife with their athletes for the games.

Kussey, who runs Inuit Art Restoration Services in Yellowknife, says that, despite asking for support to pay for shipping and bringing Merkosak to Yellowknife, the carving will all be done free of charge.

"It's really important to me as a parent to teach my kids that you don't do everything for money. My kids make things for the disabled and are learning the way my parents taught me."

So far the airlines have been "extremely supportive" of their project, Kussey says.

He's even convinced an American tool supplier to offer some state-of-the-art tools for the project.

Kussey says another reason for the project is to continue one of his long-standing goals: "to help promote the vast amount of talent there is in the smaller communities."

Derald Taylor, a carver from Tuktoyaktuk who will be assisting Kussey, calls this "one of the most unique projects he's ever done."

"It will be a really cool project. It will help get us the exposure we need.