Gallagher's Kentish Ragstone used for Inuit stone cairn to be exhibited at British Museum

Gallagher's Kentish Ragstone used for Inuit stone cairn to be exhibited at British Museum

Gallagher was delighted to recently welcome Piita Irniq, an Inuit artist, educator and statesman, to Hermitage Quarry to select Kentish Ragstone for an Inuksuk, an Inuit stone cairn.

Irniq was sponsored by the High Commission of Canada in the UK to build an Inuksuk for a major exhibition tentatively titled, Arctic Homelands, Changing Climates, planned at the British Museum 28 May – 23 August 2020.

Staff at the British Museum identified Kentish Ragstone as the ideal stone for this piece of art, and as the only remaining supplier of Kentish Ragstone, we were delighted to donate the stone for this project.

Irniq grew up in Naujaat (Rankin Inlet), Nunavut Canada and has built numerous Inuksuit both in his homeland as well as throughout the world for various cultural institutions. In London, March 2019, Irniq and British Museum employees travelled to Hermitage Quarry in Kent to assess the stone. Staff from the quarry laid out various shaped and sized stone in large piles and Irniq identified which stones would ultimately be crafted into an inuksuk. He noted, “As an inuksuk maker, I already know in my head what I was going to make, I have the shape visualized in my head.” The stone was then shipped back to the British Museum where Irniq built the Inuksuk in the Museum’s stone conservation lab. Irniq stacked the lighter stones and used a lift with the heavier ones. He chiselled surfaces to make them perfect fit together. By the end of the day, with the help of Stone conservator Tomasina Munden, it was finished.

The Inuksuk is approximately 200 cm high with a base measuring approximately 165 cm wide and 130 cm deep. Stone conservator Tomasina Munden will secure the stone together for the exhibition by drilling small rods into the stone so that it can be assembled and de-assembled when needed. It weighs almost two tons and thus, has a permanent base that will stay with the bottom stone.

The Inuksuk Irniq built for the British Museum has a “look through” to direct your attention to a specific location in view through the window. For thousands of years Inuit built Inuksuit to indicate specific locations. Irniq stresses that whenever he sees Inuksuit, he feels reassured and hopeful. He explains, “The inuksuk is a silent messenger for Inuit, a voiceless land marker built by Inuit for many thousands of years. It symbolizes the survival of Inuit. It is normally built in areas of good fishing, good seal hunting, good caribou hunting, and crossing places.” Today, Inuksuit are a commonly used symbol indicating direction and hope. The image is represented on the Nunavut flag.

This project was generously funded by the Canadian High Commission for the UK and the British Museum with support from Gallagher Group.