By Bernie Bell
Driving along the A964 in the parish of Orphir, you might notice, by the side of the road, an interesting stone structure. This is a sculpture by Kristyn Grieve, and is an Inuksuk. Inukuit are similar structures built by the Native peoples of the far North of Canada, this sculpture thereby connects the Hall of Clestrain, John Rae’s expedition, and the Native peoples who contributed so much to the success of that expedition.
“The Hall of Clestrain – John Rae’s birthplace – can be seen, beautifully framed, ‘inside‘ the structure, as through a window, in this image by Kristyn herself”
In fact, it could more correctly be called a “nuingvaliruluit” as, in the Inuit language, that’s an inuksuk with a window – inuksuit don’t all frame something, as Kristyn’s does.
Having read up a bit about inuksuit, in their various forms, I am very taken with what they are seen to represent, in various ways. In one piece I read, it said that they are sometimes raised in memory of someone who has passed from this life. Also, that sometimes there is just one stone, and sometimes, the nuingvaliruluit with windows, line up, one leading the eye on to the next, or to a constellation in the sky. This puts me in mind of some of the Neolithic marker stones and alignments found on Orkney, and elsewhere – some of the inuksuit are thousands of years old.
There is more information about Inuksuit here………….. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/inuksuk-inukshuk
Andrew Appleby, President of the John Rae Society, sees Hoy sound, with its ‘Old Man,’ as being a natural inuksuk, as he says………… “It shows the way to Hudson Bay”, and, one form of inuksuk, called a innunnguag, means ‘in the likeness of a human.’
Looking at Kristyn’s picture, I can see what Andrew means – Kristyn’s inuksuk frames, not only the Hall of Clestrain, but also the sea-ways to Canada…………….
And this isn’t the only link between Kristyn’s work and Dr. Rae.
Back in 2014 Kristyn had just graduated from Orkney Art College, UHI, and shared an exhibition space with other graduates, in what was then an empty shop next door to ‘The Orkney Hotel’, Kirkwall. Mike and I went along to see the exhibition, and I was particularly struck, mesmerized, enthralled by Kristyn’s work. It was a piece of pure magic. The main part of Kristyn’s exhibition was a room with frozen ’tear-drops’, each with a stone inside, slowly melting and dripping into little ‘wells’ of stone on the floor. Each drip was gently amplified, so that sound added to the overall ‘feel’ of the room.
This work is by an Orcadian woman, has numerous levels and links, and numerous levels and links, with Orkney. The stones are from Aikerness beach, and so, link with the tales of the fin-folk, the selkies, and the fisher-wives, shedding tears by the sea.
There are links with the frozen seas of the North, the Inuit peoples, and with John Rae. Maybe, even, with the tears of those left behind when both the Franklin, and Rae expeditions set off on ventures which could have a very uncertain chance of their return.
You could even say, that, as the ice melts, and reveals the pieces of stone, so the ice melts, and the North-West Passage, is revealed.
That room was a place of peace, thought, connections and awareness.
I have no photos, because – we hadn’t known anything about it. I’d gone to Sutherland’s to get my passport picture taken, and the lass taking my photo, asked had we seen the exhibition across the road. That’s how we chanced to see it – that’s how these things happen, how the connections are made, and the wonder spreads.
We do have one of Kristyn’s prints, entitled ‘Teardrop’, framed and on our wall – so I can look at that, remember the exhibition and ………think.
If you would like to see something more of Kristyn’s work, she has a presence here….. https://gramho.com/explore-hashtag/kristyngrieve