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Inez Shiwak

Inez Shiwak is a seamstress, video artist and producer from Rigolet, NL who also works as a researcher and activist. Shiwak learned her skills as a seamstress from her mother, Jane Shiwak, who is one of few artists in Nunatsiavut who continue to make Inuit dolls [1]. Shiwak first learned pattern making as a way of participating in intergenerational knowledge sharing, which is at the core of Inuit craft [2]. Shiwak is known for her sealskin works.

Shiwak experiments with new techniques and approaches in her wall hangings and jewellery [3], which Ossie Michelin describes as part of a new generation of artists coming up with " . . . different ideas and . . .  adapting to different ways of making crafts” [4]. Shiwak uses traditional materials, such as sealskin, but brings her own perspective to her work. She has also collaborated with artists such as her mother to make a variety of works that were featured in the touring exhibition SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut.

In My Great Grandparent's Cabin (2015), sealskin is stretched over raw wood pieces, which are bound with rope, not nails. The embroidery at the centre is in vivid tones of blue, green, red and white, which depict a lakeside cabin and a woman in a 19th century gown in the foreground. Engaging with settler colonial narratives of the calm wilderness tamed by settler impositions upon the landscape, Shiwak embroiders the scene on sealskin, drawing attention to the history of imposing settler narratives on Inuit histories and traditions.

A talented film and video artist, Inez Shiwak has worked on a number of projects, from making short animated films for the IlikKuset-Illingannet/Culture-Connect Program, to consultation for Attutauniujuk Nunami: Lament for the Land (2014). She is the Project Assistant with the 'My Word': Storytelling & Digital Media Lab, a project for researching and using digital media strategies to share traditional Inuit knowledge and storytelling.

Shiwak is also an Arctic researcher applying Inuit knowledge to the study and effects of climate change, especially in her home territory of Nunatsiavut. In addition, she is an advocate and activist for language preservation and youth education and is passionate about cultural mentorship programs in her community. Shiwak was honoured by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami with the Inuit Recognition Award during ArcticNet 2016 for her work on climate change [5]. She also worked on a photography project for Illusuak Cultural Centre that opened Fall 2018 [6].



Citations/Footnotes

1. Inez Shiwak, “30 Artists to Know,” Inuit Art Quarterly 30, no. 3 (Fall 2017): 125.
2. Heather Igloliorte, “Inez and Jane Shiwak,” SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut (Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions): 162.
3. Heather Igloliorte, “30 Artists to Know,” Inuit Art Quarterly 30, no. 3 (Fall 2017): 124.
4. Ossie Michelin, “What Makes Nunatsiavut Art Unique?,” Tourism Nunatsiavut, September 30, 2015, Accessed November 23, 2017, https://www.tourismnunatsiavut.com/home/blog-37
5. Heather Igloliorte, “30 Artists to Know,” 125.
6. Danette Dooley, “Labrador life through pictures,” The Southern Gazette, Accessed November 23, 2017, http://www.southerngazette.ca/news/regional/labrador-life-through-pictures-74676/