Sugpiaq artist shares work, culture with Kodiak residents

Artist, Andrew Abyo, holds his war shield which is in the permanent collection of the Alutiiq Museum and Archeological Repository join Kodiak. (Photo Courtesy of the Alutiiq Museum)

Daysha Eaton/KMXT

Traditional Sugpiaq artist Andrew Abyo visited Kodiak over the weekend as a guest of the Alutiiq Museum and Archeological Repository.

He participated in Kodiak’s first Friday events and, on Saturday, hosted an atlatl throwing demonstration at the museum.

“The atlatl was used by the Sugpiaq and also the Ungangax, actually all the different cultures of Alaska. And primarily it was used in the Kayak,” said Abyo. “That is actually not an Alaska Native word, it is an Aztec word and for the Sugpiaq we call it the Nug’aq. Not too many people were familiar with it and it is a good way for me to introduce our people to the culture.”

A participant throws an atlatl at an event held at the Alutiiq Museum and Archeological Repository on Saturday, August 4, 2018. (Photo Courtesy of the Alutiiq Museum)

An atlatl is a spear-throwing weapon used for hunting around the world.

Abyo is primarily a wood carver, making masks, weapons and kayaks.

The Alutiiq Museum has a pair of Abyo’s pieces in their permanent collection, a war shield and war club.

Abyo says he did not grow up with carving, but had always admired it. Then he discovered his talent through a workshop.

“I got home one evening and I got a call from my mom and she told me that she paid for a workshop for me at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and you don’t want to say no to mom,” said Abyo. “And so, I went and yeah, I discovered that I could carve these. It just comes right out. And it was natural, and it kinda grew from there.”

The workshop, Abyo says, was with his uncle, Peter Lind. Abyo is originally from Pilot Point on the Alaska Peninsula.

He says, when he is not traveling and teaching, he can be found working on his current project, building a model angyaq, an open-skin boat, similar to the umiaq, at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage.

Abyo’s visit was supported by a museum initiative to incubate and test innovative approaches to create fun and engaging programming to expand its audience.

The Alutiiq Museum and Archeological Repository initiative is supported by the Rasmuson Foundation.

Here is a link to a video about Andrew Abyo’s work.

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