Her face is tucked under a solid wave inside a whalebone. She is Sedna, the sea goddess who lives in the cold waters of the Arctic, where she is feared and revered by hunters and those traveling on the sea ice. It is said that when she is angered, she causes famine by withholding sea animals from hunters and whalers.
<iframe src="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/video/videoEmbed.html?uuid=bd6489fa-1eb1-11e2-9746-908f727990d8" height="343" width="610" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>According to Inuit legend, the only way to soothe Sedna is to send a shaman into the depths of the ocean to comb her hair, which has become tangled by the sins of man. Only then, they say, will she release the sea creatures so that life may go on.
Yet here she is, in a sculpture created by Abraham Anghik Ruben, a Canadian Inuit artist whose work has been collected in the exhibit “Arctic Journeys/Ancient Memories”at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
The exhibit, which runs through Jan. 2, features 23 massive pieces rarely seen in the United States that depict the great seafaring legends of the indigenous Inuit and the Viking and Norse settlers, carved from soapstone, ivory and whale bones.
Its appearance coincides with the 18th Inuit Studies Conference at the Smithsonian, which brings together scholars and Inuit leaders to study and discuss topics including archeology, environmental issues, health and culture.