Inuit women have long played central roles in artmaking across Inuit Nunangat. In early iterations, this might have taken the form of creating labour-intensive traditional clothing and shoes, the intricate beaded jewellery and trim that accompanies them, or the wall hangings that played a role in recording the history of the community. While those activities persist, today there is no artistic field that Inuit women don’t play a role in.
Each of the artists listed here is a contemporary creator who has carved out a niche for herself at the top of her respective field. Keep scrolling to learn what makes each one special!
Raeann Brown Inuit Tattoo Etched Glass Set (2020) glass Courtesy the artist
The owner of Inuky Glass Art, Raeann Brown is a master of glass etching and one of the few Inuk artists working in the fragile medium. She grew up in Postville, Nunatsiavut, NL, and currently lives in Wabush, NL, where her business is based. Brown got her start in poetry but learned glass etching and glass painting in 2012. She now uses her skills on wine glasses, mirrors, ornaments and more, selling through her website and a number of storefronts across Canada. Her work was included in the travelling exhibition SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut (2017–2020), as well as the 2019 Labrador Winter Games. In April 2020, she released a colouring book called The Colours of Our Culture.
Germaine Arnaktauyok Food Provider (2005) Etching and aquatint 52.1 x 42.5 courtesy waddingtons
With 60 years of graphic art under her belt, Germaine Arnaktauyok of Yellowknife, NT, is a force to be reckoned with in the Canadian art landscape. In February, she became the most recent Inuk inductee to the Governor General’s Award for Artistic Achievement, following a distinguished career that has included designing multiple coins for the Royal Canadian Mint, authoring and illustrating a number of books, and seven solo shows and dozens of group exhibitions around the world. She is best known for her explorations of Inuit myths, which she portrays using the shading style of fine coiled lines which she created.
Phebe Bently Qulliq inspired natjuk siutimmiutaak (antler earrings) (2020) glass beads, hematite and leather courtesy the artist
A sewer and jeweller from Kangirsuk, Nunavik, QC, who now resides in Montreal, QC, Phebe Bentley is the creative mind behind Lookin’ Sharp By Phebe, her line of caribou antler earrings. Bentley created the company in 2019 after a visit with her family in Kangirsuk, where she collected bleached antlers from the land. She produces the earrings from antlers shipped to her by her mother and aunts, using a handsaw to cut cross-sections of the antlers and decorating them with an elaborate border of beads. Unlike other Inuit beaders, who often make symmetrical circles around pieces like this, Bentley’s designs mimic the shape of qulliq, a seal-oil lamp traditionally tended to by women.
Karis Gruben Untitled (portrait of a woman) (2019) Courtesy the artist
A painter, carver and beader originally from Inuvik, Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT, Karis Gruben is a multidisciplinary artist without limits. Gruben was inspired from a young age by her father, the late William Gruben, and brings his sense of perfectionism and attention to detail to her work. While she divides her time across multiple mediums, Gruben’s thematic specialty lies in interpretations of femininity, particularly strength. With each piece, she strives to spark conversation on reflection in her audience about what it means to be a woman.
Goota Ashoona Tuniigusiia/The Gift (2020) Verde Guatemala marble 7’ x 4’ x 4’ courtesy the artist
Originally from Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU, but now based just outside of Winnipeg, MB, Goota Ashoona is a sculptor who is best known for her whalebone and stone sculptures, but also produces intricate dolls and wall hangings as well as performing as a throat singer. Ashoona has travelled extensively throughout North America, working as part of an artistic-residency program at the Haida Gwaii Museum in BC and working as the artist-in-residence at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis. She recently completed one of the largest Inuit sculptures ever created, a 10-tonne sculpture commission for the WAG-Qaumajuq in Winnipeg, which required her to combine the traditional carving techniques learned from members of her multi-generational artistic family with cutting-edge industrial tools.
Katherine Takpannie Untitled (2017) Digital photograph COURTESY THE ARTIST
An artist and writer currently based out of Ottawa, ON, Katherine Takpannie uses her photography to explore performance, political protest and intimate female portraits through the lens of urban Inuit life captured in both natural and built environments. Her work was featured in 2018 as part of the group exhibition Getting Under Our Skin at the Art Gallery of Guelph in Ontario, as well as the 2019 exhibition They Forgot That We Were Seeds at the Carleton University Art Gallery in Ottawa. In 2020, Takpannie was named one of the winners of the New Generation Photography Award. As part of the prize, her work will be featured in 2021 at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.
Slash/Back (still) (2019) COURTESY SLASH/BACK FILM
The founder of Mixtape VR, Nyla Innuksuk is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work spans film, television, graphic novels and synthetic experiences like virtual reality—different mediums which all allow her to push the limits of technology and genre storytelling. Originally from Igloolik, NU, Innuksuk was the artist-in-residence for ImagineNATIVE in 2018 and that same year co-created the character of Snowguard, a teenage Inuk superhero from Panniqtuuq (Pangnirtung), NU, for Marvel Comics. She currently sits on the board of directors for Ontario Creates and the Glenn Gould Foundation, and her long-awaited film Slash/Back is expected to be released in 2021.
Beatrice Deer is a singer-songwriter and visual artist from Quaqtaq, Nunavik, QC, whose music combines traditional Inuit throat singing with indie pop rock. She first gained recognition with her debut album, Just Bea (2005), which won Best Inuit Cultural Album at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards the same year it was released. Her fifth and most recent album, My All To You (2018), won Best Folk Album at the 2019 Indigenous Music Awards. Deer is an activist working to bring attention to suicide awareness and prevention in Indigenous communities, and works to use her public platform to foster dialogue on a global scale. In 2020, she made it to the finals of Quebec-wide TV talent show Les Talents Bleus. Her sixth album is expected in Spring 2021.