Thursday, December 4, 2008

The inukshuk

When I was 6 years old, Vancouver hosted Expo 86. A great deal of monumental structures were built that year which includes Canada Place, Science World, and the Skytrain system. However, one lesser-recognized addition was the inukshuk statue which currently stands at the southern end of English Bay Beach. The inukshuk was a gift from the Inuit of Canada's arctic territories to Vancouver.

The inukshuk at English Bay

People always come up with different interpretations for what inukshuks are. When I was in grade 4 studying the Inuit, I was taught two things about inukshuks: that they were traditionally built as place markers on the vast and barren tundra, and that they were somehow used to herd caribou. Despite their traditional uses, these human-like stone statues are widely recognized as symbols of Canada's Inuit culture.

In 2003 when Vancouver won the bid to host the 2010 winter Olympics, a contest was held to design the official logo. The winner's design was a colourful interpretation of an inukshuk, inspired by the one at English Bay.

The winning entry initially caused a huge controversy because people thought that the inukshuk design looked too amateurish. Others complained that it had absolutely nothing to do with Vancouver's identity, but instead, its link to the Arctic continued to persist the cold and snowy Canadian stereotype. I think there was a 90% disapproval rating for the inukshuk design, but it was chosen anyway and was first shown at the 2006 Torino Olympics during the closing ceremonies. Despite the initial public disapproval, I think Canadians have warmed up it (no pun intended). I know I have!

This past summer when I visited Whistler, I took the gondola up to the top of the mountain. As we neared the top, I noticed that a new inukshuk had been built, obviously a replica of the logo. Although inukshuks aren't from this part of Canada, that inukshuk at the peak of Whistler seemed appropriately monumental, greeting visitors in anticipation of the upcoming 2010 Olympics. All I know is that one day in the not-too-distant future, I'll be watching that very inukshuk and the mountainous panorama behind it on TV.

2010 Olympics
The inukshuk on top of Whistler


TasteTV said...

Robyn, we heard you wanted to start Chocolate Television....
Surprise, go to

Robyn said...

Wow, it actually exists!

Matthew Watkins said...

I remember seeing inukshuk's along a section of beach along the coast of stanley park loads of them made from small stones seemingly defying gravity and the force of the waves. They were amazing, I took lots of photos I'll try and dig some out.

Robyn said...

I know exactly what you're talking about. I think it's the same guy who does it, but I could be wrong.

Powell River Books said...

Hi Robyn - Great post with a little history and a little future in it. We are in the lottery for Olympics tickets, but they didn't announce the "winners" on Friday as planned. Hope we get some of the ones we requested. We don't plan to go to any of the events in Whistler, so I'll be watching those on TV as well. I'll watch for your inukshuk. -- Margy

Robyn said...

Hi Margy,

Good luck with the lottery! I also put in a few requests only for the Vancouver events, hoping only for at least one. I've got my fingers crossed for both of us!