Abraham Anghik Ruben: Time to Play

Artist Spotlight: The unveiling of a monumental carving at Qaumajuq

Creating Representation Land
In a snowy streetscape in front of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, a limestone carving of a family of bears sits atop a concrete pedestal.

In early 2021, WAG-Qaumajuq unveiled a monumental new sculpture by Inuit artist Abraham Anghik Ruben, in celebration of the upcoming opening of Qaumajuq, the Inuit art centre. The stone carving, titled Time to Play, is now part of the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s permanent collection. Commissioned by Tannis M. Richardson, the carving now welcomes visitors to Qaumajuq.

In a snowy streetscape in front of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, a limestone carving of a family of bears sits atop a concrete pedestal.



Carved from Indiana Limestone, the large sculpture features a family of bears, playfully climbing over one another. Time to Play graces the outdoor plaza, named Nutaaq Tummaqtuyuq, Inuvialuktun for “big steps forward.” Watch this video to learn more about the sculpture and the artist:

Credit: This video was originally published by the The Winnipeg Art Gallery on February 5, 2021. COURTESY WINNIPEG ART GALLERY-QAUMAJUQ. 


Next to an in-process version of his sculpture in an outdoor carving studio, artist Abraham stands, facing the camera, with his right arm outstretched towards the sculpture.
Abraham Anghik Ruben with his in-process sculpture, Time to Play (2020). COURTESY WINNIPEG ART GALLERY-QAUMAJUQ.


“The idea for the sculpture started in 1990 when I first received the five-tonne boulder. The following year, I started roughing-out the shape of a mother bear, and every other year I would rough-out more and more of the features of the sculpture. Initially it was intended to represent the different bears common to the various ancient circumpolar cultures. But when the idea for an outdoor sculpture emerged, the concept evolved as I wanted it to be something that children could relate to, climb over, and play with. So I included young bear cubs at different ages to represent the different stages of childhood development.”
— Abraham Anghik Ruben

Ruben was born in 1951 in a camp south of Paulatuk, Northwest Territories and east of the Mackenzie River Delta. This region is home to the Mackenzie Inuit or Inuvialuit. Ruben moved to Vancouver in 1980, and to a quiet, rural life on Salt Spring Island in 1986 where he carves in an outdoor studio. In 1989, the WAG organized Out of Tradition, an exhibition of sculpture by Ruben and his brother, David Ruben Piqtoukun. In 2001, the WAG organized his first museum solo exhibition.

Ruben’s work is collected by many major museums, including WAG-Qaumajuq, which holds over 30 of Ruben’s works in the collection. Through public and private commissions, his outdoor sculptures have enhanced the streetscape of Vancouver and enriched the campus of the University of Manitoba. In 2016 Ruben was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.

In 2022, WAG-Qaumajuq will hold a major solo exhibition, which will explore Ruben’s experiences within his Inuvialuit culture and his more recent study of the history and oral culture of Nordic peoples, including the Vikings.

This story is part of the Qaumajuq Partner Spotlight. View more content from the Spotlight here.