• Feature

Inez Shiwak

30 Artists to Know

Dec 08, 2017
by IAQ

For our 30th anniversary issue, the IAQ asked 15 leading figures in Inuit art to nominate an early-career artist to watch. In turn, those artists selected a senior talent who has inspired them. The result is “30 Artists to Know”, an expansive portfolio exploring the intergenerational, familial and community-based bonds that are made visible through art.

Inez Shiwak b. 1977
Rigolet, NL 

Depending on which circles you run in, you may know Inez Shiwak as a video artist and producer, a seamstress, a researcher, or a cultural leader and activist. Inez excels at all of these roles in her community of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, where she practices sewing, beadwork and other art forms and coordinates the “My Word”: Storytelling and Digital Media Lab, among her many other talents and responsibilities. As an Arctic researcher, she seeks to better understand the impacts of changing climate, health and language through scientific research and participatory digital media. She was recently honoured for this work by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami when she was presented with the Inuit Recognition Award during the 2016 ArcticNet [Annual Scientific Meeting]. As an artist, she has also recently been recognized by the Nunatsiavut Government with the acquisition of two major sealskin multimedia works for their permanent collection.

Inez learned to sew, make baskets and continue other Inuit practices from her mother, Jane Shiwak, who passed on the skills and knowledge from her own mother and grandmother. Today, Shiwak uses sealskin to produce everything from complex, large-scale wall hangings to petite works of wearable art. In the nationally touring exhibition SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut, Shiwak has two pieces that represent the breadth of her practice, including the single-channel video work Where Have the Voices Gone? (2016) and a pair of beaded moosehide and beaver fur kamek (boots) she made with her mother. – Heather Igloliorte

ShiwakJaneInuitCoupleJane Shiwak (b. 1952 West Bay), Inuit Couple, 2015, sealskin, felt, yarn, fabric, wood, rabbit fur and beads, 34.3 × 30.5 × 10.2 cm COURTESY THE ROOMS

Jane Shiwak b. 1952
West Bay, NL 

My work is inspired by my mother, Jane Shiwak, who was born in West Bay and has been living in Rigolet for years, running the craft shop. She makes Inuit dolls, and, as far as I know, she’s the only one in Nunatsiavut still making them. In our family, making crafts has always been there. My mom and I have always done things together.

She starts the projects and then we—my sister and I—contribute to them. We will do the beadwork around [the dolls] or some of those little tedious things that she doesn’t want to do or have time to do. A lot of [learning] has been through talking to her and figuring out which way is best. She would give me ideas of what I could do or how she wanted it done and then she would start it off for me, and I would finish sewing it. It’s generally that she shows me how to do something once. I just learned that way and that’s what we do. – Inez Shiwak

Heather Igloliorte
Igloliorte is the University Research Chair in Indigenous Art History and Community Engagement and an Assistant Professor of Aboriginal Art History at Concordia University. An active member of the Quarterly’s Editorial Advisory Council, Igloliorte edited a special issue on art from Nunatsiavut in 2015 (28.3–4, Fall/Winter 2015), the first IAQ edited by an Inuk.

These profiles appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly.

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