On first look the ‘Inukshuk’ or the “image of man” is an extended replica of the ‘seven tiles‘ game we played as children. The popular south Asian game of ‘Seven tiles or Pitto’ is played by two teams who try to break the flat and different edged 7 stone tower with a tennis or rubber ball and the team that scores maximum hits and reconstructed towers is the winner.
The miniature jade, glass and stone Inukshuks (pronounced in-ook-shook) displayed in souvenir shops did not have the same effect as the five feet one outside the Inukshuk Gallery next to the Public Market on Johnston St., Granville Island,Vancouver. The oversized brittle figure, each stone unique in size, was temptation to call ‘pitto’ but I controlled myself when I learnt that the sculpture is not mere stones. To the Inuit tribe, formerly Eskimos of the Canadian Arctic, the Inukshuit (plural of inukshuk) were communication and survival signposts placed in strategic locations in the desolate Arctic regions of North America to reassure lost travelers and souls that ‘someone was here.’ One can picture the effort and hardship of tiling the stones as each stone is important to the balancing feat. The direction of arms or legs of the inukshuk indicated valleys or passages and inukshuks without arms or with antlers were indicators of available food. The Inukshuit were also used for other purposes such as to mark a place of respect or memorial, as indicators of migratory routes of fishes or as objects of veneration.
The human shaped inukshuk or inunnguaq was the logo of the 2010 Winter Olympic games of Vancouver.
Seven tiles forgotten I bought pewter Inukshuk key rings as souvenirs for friends back home.