British Museum collections, £12.99
Length: 32.000 cm
Width: 15.000 cm
AOA Ethno 2001,Am14.16ab
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Pair of sealskin mittens (aaqqatit) with two thumbs
Made in Nuuk, Greenland, about AD 1994
'These mittens are very handy, they are great for rolling - those rolls where you have to come up using only your hand. Because they are so big, it is much easier to come up again.' (Member of the Kayak Club Nuuk, 2001)
Traditional kayak mittens (aaqqatit) usually have two thumbs, one on each side. In this way, the mitten can be turned around when one side has become too slippery from water or ice.
Seal skin for kayak mittens was often prepared in a special way. The hair was not plucked out, as for other articles of kayak clothing, but shaved off, so the skin did not become too slippery. Furthermore, the inner side of the skin was treated with seal blood, rendering it more waterproof and more supple.
This pair of kayak mittens belonged to Jenseeraq Amondsen, a member of the Kayak Club Nuuk. He had bought them in Nuuk in about 1994 from an elderly lady. She had made them in the same way as she used to make them for her husband, who had been a kayak hunter. At that time, hunters used either wood shavings or inner mittens of cotton for insulation. Today, as this practice is barely remembered, the mittens appear to be quite large.
Other Views: Jenseeraq Amondsen from Nuuk, ready for the rolling competition. He is wearing a sealskin tuilik and sealskin mittens with two thumbs. Nanortalik, July 2001.