Emerging artist Aija Komangapik has received first place in the Indigenous Arts & Stories contest, presented annually by Historica Canada, for the digital drawing Drumdancer (2019).
“I made the piece for myself, because I just enjoy drawing,” explains the twenty-year-old artist based between Gaspé, QC, and Iqaluit, NU. “My grandmother pushed me to submit to the competition and I thought ‘why not?’”
Komangapik was selected by a jury comprised of conductor John Kim Bell, artist Maxine Noel, multidisciplinary artist Shirley Moorhouse, artist and professor Bonnie Devine and curator, academic and Inuit Art Foundation Board Member Ryan Rice for the Senior Arts category for applicants ages 19 to 29.
I am really surprised that I was awarded first place and happy that people like my work,” she says about the accolade.
Drumdancer is a vibrant, colourful digital drawing made using a tablet that, according to the artist, “flows with movement like rubber.” Warm tones of honey yellow, orange and magenta mix with bold hues of deep blue as the dancer moves through space.
“I didn't really want it to be so lifelike. I wanted it to be more stylized. When I watch drum dancers, like my sister, I see that they move in a rubbery way and they flow. I really enjoy that and I wanted to capture more of the flow than the actual anatomy”
“I was always surrounded by art [growing up],” Komangapik adds about her creative family, which includes her father Ruben Komangapik, a noted sculptor. “My father is a visual artist, and when I was young my mom would make art things now and again.”
Since 2005, Historica Canada has been supporting Indigenous writers through the Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge. In 2010 the award was reimagined as the Indigenous Arts & Stories competition, which includes awards for emerging visual artists as well as writers.
Though Komangapik recently illustrated the book Country Food (2019), published by Inhabit Media, the artist hopes to continue to pursue these creative endeavours as she begins studies in biochemistry this fall at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, QC.
Past nominees for the award include Charleen Watt, Gabriel Uqaituk and Harry Josephee, among others.