Death of a Foster Son

Bird Editions, Oxford: 2016
Text and cyanotype prints created during a residency at Ilulissat Museum, Greenland.
Litho printed by Tompkin Press, Nottingham. Hand-sewn binding.
Design by Roni Gross.
ISBN 978-0-9928091-1-9
£12

The hunting habits of bears have more in common with those of humans than any other animal: both hunt seals using similar techniques, both – sometimes – hunt each other. Some of the hunters on Upernavik push the correspondence further, and still wear the bearskin trousers that have always been their best protection against the cold. There is a belief that once a bear enters its den in the winter, it removes its fur and acquires a human appearance…

Death of a Foster Son explores the uncanny point at which the lives of bears and humans meet. The text merges two Arctic stories: a contemporary encounter with a polar bear in Upernavik, Greenland, and a traditional Inuit folk tale ‘The old woman who had a bear for a foster son’. The illustrations are based on traditional catch-share diagrams recorded by Inuit hunters for Knud Rasmussen’s Literary Expedition of 1903–4.

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Photograph © Peter Abrahams