Davie Atchealak


Born near Cape Dorset, Davie Atchealak would live and work primarily in Pangnirtung and Iqaluit over the course of his career. As an artist, he had a strong sense of autonomy and preferred to be on the move—it was common for him to sell his works directly to collectors rather than through the co-operative system [1].

In May 1989, Atchealak made headlines when his whalebone work Drum Dancer sold at a Waddington’s auction in Toronto for over $45,000—at the time, a record price for an Inuit carving [2]. The sculpture now lives in the National Gallery of Canada’s Inuit art collection [3].

His works are often described as being done in a mode of realism inflected by a sense of heroic masculinity—a style exemplified by his large carvings of bears and humans. If Pauta Saila’s dancing bears are iconic for their abstracted shapes and somewhat more spiritual thematic concerns, Atchealak’s bears are tougher and truer to life, energized by their striking depictions of musculature. As for his human sculptures, Atchealak’s favourite subjects were drum dancers and hunters. These figures he depicted mid-motion, arms dynamically raised and faces vigorously expressive, and according to Ingo Hessel, they illustrate a "certain macho aesthetic among male sculptors on southern Baffin Island” of which “Atchealak [was] probably its most zealous practitioner” [4].

Ultimately, Atchealak felt compelled to create work that was deeply informed by his own experiences, an outlook he explained to John Houston in an interview from 1978: “I will only make what I know and recognize. That’s all that interests me. It must make sense as I wish to fool no one. My works do not come from dreams…I consciously work on each image” [5].

Artist Work

About Davie Atchealak


Drawing, Painting, Sculpture/Carving

Artistic Community:

Pangnirtung and Iqaluit, NU

Date of Birth:

Artists may have multiple birth years listed as a result of when and where they were born. For example, an artist born in the early twentieth century in a camp outside of a community centre may not know/have known their exact date of birth and identified different years.

Ikirasaq, NU

Date of Death:

Artists may have multiple dates of death listed as a result of when and where they passed away. Similar to date of birth, an artist may have passed away outside of a community centre or in another community resulting in different dates being recorded.