In May 2016, Shuvinai Ashoona was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA) for drawing. Although Ashoona was unable to attend the formal ceremony in Vancouver, the Inuit Art Foundation was able to assist in send her award to Kinngait with board member Pat Feheley in early February 2017. A community gathering was organized on February 8, 2017—including members of her family and Mayor Padlaya Qiatsuk—where Ashoona was surprised and presented her diploma and sash. Ashoona joins the ranks of a significant group of Inuit artists who share the RCA distinction including Helen Kalvak, OC (1901–1984; awarded 1974), Jessie Oonark, OC (1906–1985; awarded 1975) and Kananginak Pootoogook (1935–2010; awarded 1979).
Ashoona’s drawings explore a range of themes from the politics of contemporary life in the North, of being an Inuk woman and of being an artist. She uses both phantasmagoric imagery and representations that are rooted in her experiences. Animals, humans and mystical creatures of various shapes and sizes are a thread throughout her works and depicted in a variety of real and imagined scenarios.
Her work has been included in major exhibitions across Canada and internationally, including recent group exhibitions at Esker Foundation, Calgary and Mercer Union, Toronto. Ashoona has also collaborated on numerous drawings and a publication with Toronto-based artist Shary Boyle. The two artists share a complimentary aesthetic that has led to innovative works. Ashoona is the subject of a recent, digital publication by the Art Canada Institute, written by Dr. Nancy Campbell. She is the second Inuk artist to be profiled in an ACI Online Art Book; the first was Pitseolak Ashoona, RCA, who was the subject of a 2015 book written by Christine Lalonde. Both can be accessed online at www.aci-iac.ca. Further, Ashoona was included in Phaidon’s major survey publication Vitamin D2: New Perspectives in Drawing, by Christian Rattemeyer. Ashoona’s RCA distinction is an important recognition of her prolific and impactful work as an artist.
Congratulations Shuvinai from everyone at the Inuit Art Quarterly!