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Janet Nungnik

Janet Arjaut Anowtalik Nungnik was born in 1954 at a small camp west of Hudson Bay in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut. Nungik is a member of both the Padlermiut and Ihalmiut and she grew up living traditionally on the land. As a child, Nungnik’s family moved to Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake), NU, so that the family could stay together while the children attended school [1].

In the early 1970s, Nungnik learned to make wall hangings by watching and helping her mother, Martha Tiktak Anautalik, who was also a respected artist. Nungnik also learned the craft of creating wall hangings by watching Jessie Oonark, whom Nungnik knew and assisted during the final years of her life [2]. Nungnik started her work and continues it as a celebration of the Inuit connection with the land.

Nungnik’s wall hanging are delicately embroidered and appliquéd, telling stories of her life and her people. The clarity of her cut out forms gives her complex works a rare expressive power and graphic immediacy [3]. The often dream-like images are filled with a range of delicate details made of beads, furs, and other materials that enrich the meaning, giving the wall hangings a tactile presence [4]. Nungnik accompanies the majority of her wall hangings with verse-like text in English, which adds depth and understanding to her thoughts when making the piece. When Nungnik describes making her wall hangings, she says they are a way to release images already in her head.

In the piece Son-In-Laws (2002), Nungnik features a mix of perspectives and colours to show how much she looks forward to the return of her son-in-laws, who are in two kayaks in the bottom of the hanging. The water is marked with horizontal Vs to indicate water. Above them is a large headband facing outward from the picture, more tactile and almost three dimensional, including elements such as beads. The headband serves a metaphor for Nungnik—much larger than the kayakers—to reflect the emotional importance of their return. Her delicate embroidery creates the shore and hills in the background. It is a joyous image, accompanied by her verse: “to have them arrive home with/gladness was a sight to my heart/I have loved them as my own, even more/My Headband outshines brilliance/Son-in-Laws, builder of my name” [5]. 2019 marks the first year of solo exhibitions for Nungnik.



Citations/Footnotes

  1. Marion Scott Gallery, “Janet Nungnik: The Eagle’s Shadow,” Press Release.
  2. Narrative Threads, “Wall Hanging: Waiting for Husband,” Online Exhibit, accessed May 1, 2019 from http://www.narrativethreads.ca/explorer-explore/piece_murale_waiting_for_husband-wall_hanging_waiting_for_husband.html
  3. Marion Scott Gallery, “Janet Nungnik,” accessed May 1, 2019 from http://marionscottgallery.com/portfolio-item/janet-nungnik-2/
  4. Ibid.
  5. Kevin Griffin, “ART SEEN: Janet Nungnik’s wall hangings evoke deeply felt memories of Inuit life,” Clinton News-Record, accessed May 1, 2019 from https://www.clintonnewsrecord.com/news/staff-blogs/art-seen-janet-nungniks-wall-hangings-evoke-deeply-felt-memories-of-inuit-life/wcm/215a6ffb-2e5c-4491-8013-855e3ae4af57