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Inez Shiwak: From Seamstress to Activist

Feb 03, 2020
by Heather Igloliorte

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 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 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.

This piece was originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Inuit Art Quarterly.

Shiwak and other artists will be at Northern Lights 2020 in Ottawa February 5th to 8th.

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