Kikgavik means “falcons” in Inuktitut. In Kiakshuk’s composition, these birds of prey stretched to enormous proportions surround and startle a hunter as he attempts to aim his rifle. Here, as in many other works by the artist, the line between the natural and the supernatural is blurred. These supernatural motifs, which often depict surreal transformation scenes, informed by Kiakshuk’s long life as a hunter and his practice as an angakok, or shaman. Angakkuit (shamans) were said to possess the ability to move between the two worlds.
Kiakshuk became an artist as an elder, at the age of seventy. For the next six years, until his death, he produced about 650 drawings that were admired by colleagues such as Kananginak Pootoogook and Pitseolak Ashoona. In her autobiography, Pitseolak wrote of her admiration for the artist. “[Kiakshuk] did real Eskimo drawings . . . I really like the way he put the old Eskimo life on paper. I used to see [him] putting the shamans and spirits into his work on paper.”