Two time winners
Trio takes Parliament Hill

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 21/00) - Brothers Eli, Bill and Joe Nasogaluak travelled to Ottawa for the Canada Snow Sculpting Competition and left with a second-place finish and the Artists Choice Award.

It was the first time the brothers, who are all carvers, worked together on such a monumental project.

"We've learned to work together. It's an ongoing thing," says Eli, now back at home in Yellowknife.

Bill now calls Ottawa home, while Joe has returned to Tuktoyaktuk.

"Because we're three sculptors, we each brought in our different talents and we seem to have worked really good together," says Eli.

"Joe's strength is that he has this real ability to bring a lot of expression in a lot of his pieces. We used that to express emotion in the faces of the Inuit, for example. We each can do faces but we used Joe for all the faces to keep it consistent."

The theme of this year's competition, held during the city's Winterlude festival, Feb. 7-13, was Great Canadian Moments, with each team sculpting a piece representing an achievement specific to their own province or territory.

The Nasogaluaks depicted the Inuit presence at the discovery of the North Pole, along with Americans Robert Peary and Matthew Hensen in 1909. The snow sculpture shows Ootah, his three friends and the two Americans in their moment of glory.

"Bill has leadership qualities," says Eli. He's done nationals before. He's done snow sculptures before in that monumental size."

The snow block for the sculpture stood at 16 feet, with a 12 foot by 12 foot base -- three times Eli's height. Each team drew a block of snow in a lottery. The teams were told four blocks were of inferior quality and they had a gruelling 33 hours over four days to complete their sculptures.

"Looking up at it, that wasn't too bad. But climbing on top of it and looking down! (Bill) was not intimidated like we were at first."

Although Eli is a highly experienced carver, he found the size of block daunting and says it's the main difference between the sculpting he normally does and his experience in Ottawa.

"Just getting everything into proportion ...

The other challenge was that we had to learn as we went along."

The snow itself presented a test of sorts.

"It was really hard, a lot of the places were as solid as ice. In other places we got into softer snow. Stone is very consistent except for cracks, but you know the consistency of the stone. Snow is not only inconsistent but it also change on you as the weather changes. It can soften, it can harden, it can freeze."

These challenges, adds Eli, were not unexpected. The brothers have worked and lived with snow throughout their lives.

In Ottawa, the Nasogaluaks also spent a lot of time with Team Nunavut -- Sam and Pudloo Pitsiulak and David Panneok of Kimirut.

The Nunavut sculpture depicted the division of the territories; a Nunavut leader shaking the hand of Prime Minister Jean Chretien, as well as other scenes reminiscent of the historical day.

"We knew about Sam, but it was really great to finally meet him," says Eli of meeting the fellow carver from across the vast Northern lands.

Eli offers a detailed description of the NWT sculpture:

"On top of the sculpture we placed Ootah, who's the significant one of the four Inuit, highly skilled in travel. He was more or less the leader and they relied heavily on him for his expertise. So we have him on top placing the flag, and on the flag we have the Canadian (Maple) leaf.

Behind Ootah, Peary and Hensen have their arms raised in victory. Below those three, one Inuit holds a dog.

"He's looking down saying a prayer, thankful that they were able to make it safely and anticipating the long journey back again."

A sled with its load lies between this Inuit and the last two, who are climbing up the rubble of ice, on their knees, congratulating each other on their success.

Nasogaluak explains that it was a high honour for his team to be deemed the best overall by their peers.

"But we felt placing second next to Quebec was not only an honour, but it was very good for us to feel that we could place next to them because they have many years of winning. And for us it was just our first time.

"In other words, we did our best."

There was close to 60,000 people who visited Parliament Hill from Feb. 11-13, viewing the 13 completed snow sculptures.

This is not the last time the brothers will come together in the name of art. In October, the Nasogaluaks will have a joint exhibit of new works at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife.

The brothers also hope to participate in more snow sculpting competitions in the future -- now that they know what it's all about.