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Roy Klengenberg of Kugluktuk and his wife Amak are finding it frustrating to try and sell their sculptures during the Covid pandemic, especially when he’s between orders.

“It can get difficult to sell which can be very discouraging,” he said.

Roy Klengenberg and his wife Amak pose with one of their sculptures. The pair are waiting for Covid relief funding to help get by as they are having trouble getting orders or fair prices for their work.
photo courtesy of Roy Klengenberg

“I have to sell in town and I set a price at what I think it is worth, considering the time you put in, time and effort you put in to retrieving the soapstone and other costs that come with carving. It is upsetting when people try to bargain and want to buy for a cheaper price when this is my livelihood and only means of making money.”

While he is continuing with his passion, he’s waiting for relief funding that he’s applied for through the government.

A great grandson of Danish explorer and trader Christian Klengenberg, Roy began carving as a young boy.

Traditional soapstone carving has been a part of Inuit culture for many generations interpreting the Inuit way of life. The first carvings were primarily made for children’s toys in which the Europeans found fascinating as it depicted artifacts of the Inuit but to the Inuit they were just simple toys to keep their children amused.

Carvings and little figurines were made with soapstone, drift wood, bone and antler.

“I was taught by both my parents, Annie and Isaac Klengenberg,” Klengenberg said.

“My first carving I did was a seal at the age of nine and at the age of 12 I was carving full time. I attended school up to grade three then my family moved to an Outpost camp at Klengenberg Bay and have been carving now for over forty years.”

Materials can be hard to come by, in the past the Coppermine Co-op provided soapstone for the Carvers.

“I have no means of transportation, therefore I have to rent a machine to go and collect soapstone 71 miles Northeast of Kugluktuk at Palik,” said Kelengenberg.

“When I don’t have the materials to make a big piece, I use what I have to make small pieces. My wife Amak has joined me in sewing miniature clothing for my carvings.”

Amak Klengenberg had never participated in the carving or sewing arts until she learned from her husband.

“I have never done anything like this before, Roy has taught me how to sew, he cuts out the outfits and I do the sewing,” she said.

“He has taught me so much and I think we make a great team. The clothes are so tiny that my fingers get stiff and cramp up but I get them done.”
Now the pair will continue to work as much as they can as they weather the Covid pandemic.

Rita Pigalak - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Rita Pigalak grew up in Kugluktuk and spent most of her adult life there. Inuinnaqtun is her mother tongue. She now lives in Yellowknife but remains intimately connected with her home community and the...

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