Nunavut is home to one of the most distinct arts communities on the planet. Galleries across Canada and the world are proud to include Inuit artists in their collection. Inuit culture is steeped in arts and tradition, so it’s no wonder we’re proud to have so many full-time artists continuing traditional works, and making waves in contemporary genres. Here are 5 current Inuk artists you should know about.
(Photography by Jason Nugent)
1. Andrew Qappik
Andrew Qappik is a printmaker, graphic designer, and carver from Pangnirtung. His works are heavily inspired by the stories from Elders he listened to as a small boy. Today, his work may depict traditional imagery and ideas, but feels incredibly modern. Qappik has received numerous honours and awards for his work, and has shown in galleries across Canada.
2. Ooloosie Saila
Ooloosie Saila is a quickly-rising emerging artist from Iqaluit, but currently calls Kinngait home. Focusing primarily on drawings, Saila uses bold colours to illuminate life in her works. Saila is part of a wave of young Inuk artists that remind us of how Nunavut is not a place stuck in the past, but is a contemporary society that has brought traditional culture with it. Saila’s work has been shown in Montreal and Toronto, and her following continues to grow.
3. Elisapee Ishulutaq
Ishulutaq was awarded the Order of Canada in 2014, after a long career of defining works. Born in 1925, her career began in Pangnirtung, in the 1960s and was part of a global wave of works that defined how Inuit culture was understood. Her prints were inspired by her culture and the land, but also took on contemporary issues around colonization and climate change. Ishulutaq passed away in 2018, but her work can still be seen today in galleries across Canada, and at the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts & Crafts in Pangnirtung.
4. Victoria Kakuktinniq
Inuit artists have never limited themselves to printmaking and carving. Kakuktinniq is exemplary of this as her fashion designs have graced Vogue, and Paris Fashion Week. Born and raised in Rankin Inlet, Kakuktinniq turned her passion for sewing into a thriving business today. Victoria’s Arctic Fashions is an online made-to-order boutique that uses traditional designs and materials to create stunning parkas and accessories.
5. Kananginak Pootoogook
Pootoogook’s life spanned the great shift in Inuit culture. Born on the land outside of what is now Kinngait, Pootoogook took his experience and knowledge of living a traditional lifestyle, and applied it to his work as a carver and printmaker. Pootoogook is a highly celebrated Inuit artist, whose work contributed to the global understanding of Inuit culture. In 1997, he unveiled a carved Inukshuk at Ottawa’s Rideau Hall, which is still on display today. Pootoogook passed away in 2010, but his work is still found across Canada.