Artifact Title: Picturing Sacred Birth

Medium: Carving, in serpentine

Title of Artwork: Mother Giving Birth

Artist: Silas Qayaqjuaq

Place/Year: Nunavut, Canada, 1997

Image Credit: Silas Qayaqjuaq

TERA Curator: Elonda Clay

Picturing Sacred Birth

Silas Kayakjuak’s sculpture depicts a woman who kneels as she gives birth, her face serene as the baby crowns visibly beneath her. In correspondence with the artist’s agent, Anna Hennessey (Religion, Nonreligion and the Sacred, 2021) learned that Kayakjuak depicts birth in what he describes as the “old way,” which refers to a time before the introduction of medical intervention in traditional birth practices. In contrast, geneticized and medical images of pregnancy often leave the mother out of the picture to focus on the fetus, even sacralizing its existence in the womb. Comparing the sculpture to most contemporary images raises significant questions about different understandings of what is potentially sacred about birthing.