We’re re-gifting again this holiday season. Our present to you is nine of the biggest moments in Inuit art this year, all wrapped up in one place for your enjoyment! Read on to learn about the amazing gains made by artists, the unexpected places Inuit art cropped up and the many, many artworks created this year.
Installation view of Shuvinai Ashoona’s work at the Venice Biennale International Exhibition The Milk of Dreams (2022)REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION DORSET FINE ARTS PHOTO TAQRALIK PARTRIDGE © THE ARTIST
Artist Award Wins
A perennial favourite moment throughout the year is anytime an artist wins (or is long or short listed!) for a prize. This year saw Jennie Williams and Zacharias Kunuk each win a Canadian Screen Award, Darcie “Ouiyaghasiak’’ Bernhardt and Jessica Winters take home the William and Meredith Saunderson Prize for Emerging Artists and Susan Aglukark receive the Humanitarian Award at this year’s Junos. David Ruben Piqtoukun won a Governor General’s Award, Shuvinai Ashoona was awarded special mention at the 59th Venice Biennale and Tivi Etok became a member of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres du Québec. No less winning were a host of nominees: Looee Arreak and Deantha Edmunds received Juno nods and Nadia Mike and Tanya Tagaq were up for the Screen Awards. Our longtime collaborator Krista Ulujuk Zawadski was one of three finalists for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s prestigious Talent Award as well. We even got a little award love ourselves: the National Magazine Awards awarded the Inuit Art Quarterly both Best Magazine in the Art, Literary & Culture category and the Magazine Grand Prix!
This year also saw a major change to the IAF’s own award program. Starting with the 2023 cycle of the Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award, more artists will be supported through an expanded list of prizes: doubling the prize to $20,000, plus a solo exhibition and residency at the WAG-Qaumajuq will go to the winner; the shortlist of five will receive cash prizes and a group exhibition; and the new longlist of ten artists will be featured in a catalogue in addition to cash prizes.
Bronson Jacque Character Concept Art (2022) © THE ARTIST
Advancing Artists' Creative Possibilities
Not only did artists win awards, they also created an impressive variety of work. In collaboration with the IAQ, Aedan Corey, Chantal Jung, Shirley Moorhouse and Norma Dunning all created original online projects that use a range of techniques, from beading to animation, to reflect Inuit sovereignty, honour their family, and even try something new. Bronson Jacque penned a recurring column about his process working to create his Inuit-focused video game. See all our current artist projects here!
This year the IAF took another groundbreaking step in artist supports by partnering with the Canada Council for the Arts: building on a mutual commitment to supporting Inuit artists in all aspects of their careers, we will build a community-feedback driven pilot program that offers Inuit-specific grants and opportunities to work on both public and private art projects, with more details to come in the new year. In collaboration with Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership, we also launched the Ilsarniq series of workshops, which focuses on teaching skills to enhance artists’ existing practices—the 2022 season included a lesson on ulu making with Ken MacKay, a question-and-answer session on properly pricing work with Douma Alwarid and Nicole Camphaug, and a guide to applying for funding with Canada Council for the Arts officer Julie Dobbin.
Still from Ann Holmgren Aurebekk’s Ovias (2022)COURTESY LA BIENNALE DI VENEZIA PHOTO ANN HOLMGREN © THE ARTIST
Inuit Art Goes Global
Following several years of minimal travel, 2022 brought the global presentations of circumpolar Indigenous art roaring back. The long-awaited Sámi Pavilion took over the Nordic Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale, bringing together artists Pauliina Feodoroff, Máret Ánne Sara and Anders Sunna with Sámi curators for the primary exhibition, accompanied by two filmmaking programs, ÁRRAN 360° and ARCTIC XR, in an extended festival at the Pavilion. Two showcases closer to home, Arctic/Amazon: Networks of Global Indigeneity and the Arctic Arts Summit, brought the circumpolar Indigenous world to Canadians’ doorsteps, while a collaboration with Global Affairs Canada investigated the presence of Inuit art in embassies around the world, with contributions from the likes of ambassadors Bob Rae, Zaib Shaikh and Kerry Goodfellow and artists Tiffany Ayalik, Qabaroak Qatsiya and Inuksuk Mackay. Historical displays of Inuit art on an international scale didn’t go unnoticed either, as we revisited the making of a spectacular Olympic tapestry and the significant Inuit presence at Montreal’s Expo 67.
Mark Igloliorte Saputiit - Fish Weir Skate Plaza (2022)COURTESY NUIT BLANCHE © THE ARTIST
Inuit Art Inhabits Toronto
Not only was Inuit art on display globally, but public art installations sprang up around Toronto this year, from Maureen Gruben’s outdoor exhibition Moving With Joy on view along the Bentway Skate Trail to a serious showing at Nuit Blanche that featured not only Gruben but also works from Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, Couzyn van Heuvelen and an interactive skate park with virtual reality fish by Mark Igloliorte. Up Front, a mural series in partnership with the IAF, installed two massive murals outside OCAD University’s Onsite Gallery featuring the work of Kablusiak and Kyle Natkusiak Aleekuk.
Truth and Reconciliation coin, designed by Jason Sikoak, JD Hawk and Leticia SpenceCOURTESY ROYAL CANADIAN MINT (c) the artists
Inuit Art in Circulation
Beyond public art and exhibitions, Inuit art found its way into the hands of many this year with the release of new coins and stamps, as well as phone backgrounds. Gayle Uyagaqi Kabloona spent the year hard at work on this endeavour, first creating a series of wallpapers for Google Pixel to honour World Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and then working with Canada Post and other Indigenous artists on a stamp series to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Jason Sikoak also got in on the action, working with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, the Royal Canadian Mint and two other Indigenous artists to bring to life a commemorative coin, again for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Lastly, Aedan Corey teamed up with Purolator to design one of 13 limited-edition festive holiday boxes.
Nyla Innuksuk Slash/Back (still) (2022)COURTESY THE ARTIST
Thriving in Front of the Camera
Speaking of Inuit art becoming more widely accessible, 2022 brought big gains at the box office, with Inuit-made films flooding theatres and TVs and even reaching into books. We interviewed three Inuk creators whose movies fix a lens on Inuit life from a new perspective: Nyla Innuksuk’s hotly anticipated horror flick Slash/Back had its world premiere in March, while August saw the release of Tiffany Ayalik’s documentary Okpik: Little Village in the Arctic and Tanya Tagaq’s concert documentary Ever Deadly premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. (The doc is set for wide release in Canadian theatres on January 20, 2023.) Meanwhile, artists made strides in exposure with the publication of On Inuit Cinema | Inuit Takugatsaliukatiget, which surveys the undercredited works of Inuit filmmakers, and the launch of a petition to make Uvagut TV, Canada’s first national television channel in an Indigenous language, a mandatory inclusion on basic cable packages. Lastly, Telefilm Canada joined the partner roster of the Arctic Indigenous Film Fund, committing to enhanced training and mentorship for circumpolar Indigenous filmmakers and cross-cultural collaboration between different Arctic regions.
Deantha EdmundsPHOTO JENNIE WILLIAMS © THE ARTIST
Songs With a Past
Singers, songwriters and performers all rose to the occasion this year, taking on new work with meanings rooted in the past. Charlotte Qamaniq and Cynthia Pitsiulak (Silla and Rise) released their music video “Tulukkat” in memory of Qamaniq’s father, a track that combines Inuit and Celtic ancestral symbols in the form of the raven. Deantha Edmunds revealed the decolonial aims behind her operatic practice and its relation to the classical music history of Nunatsiavut, while Corinne Dunphy traced the evolution of Inuktitut music on radio and how Inuit musicians went to great lengths to ensure representation on northern airwaves after the development of shortwave radio in the 1950s.
Marion Tuu’luq Untitled (1979–80)COLLECTION CANADA COUNCIL ART BANK © THE ARTIST
Curatorial Practice on the Move
This year also brought a new spate of curatorial visions to the fore—in addition to the aforementioned Arctic/Amazon: Networks of Global Indigeneity, Darcie “Ouiyaghasiak’’ Bernhardt, Leanne Inuarak-Dall, Teresa Vander Meer-Chassé and Heather Von Steinhagen took on the daunting task of a broadly northern Indigenous exhibition in the Arctic Arts Summit’s Tether, while first-time curator Goota Ashoona assembled work from her own family at La Guilde’s Ashoona: Enduring Art Stories. The curators of INUA, the inaugural exhibition at WAG-Qaumajuq, reunited a year later to discuss futurism and breaking new ground in the art world. Late this fall, the big news dropped as two major Canadian galleries announced permanent curatorial positions for Inuit staff: Jocelyn Piirainen moved to the National Gallery of Canada as an Associate Curator for the Indigenous Ways and Decolonization Department, while Taqralik Partridge took on the post of Associate Curator of Inuit Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Zebede Evaluardjuk-Fournier See Me After Class (2021)© THE ARTIST
The Bridging of Traditional and Contemporary Art
One of the central questions on the minds of many creators this year was how to present themselves and their work, recognizing a tension between historic concepts of what Inuit (and Inuit art) are and can be, and the ways in which contemporary Inuit artists are reinterpreting these meanings. A thought-provoking essay from Jonas Henderson considering the ways he could present himself through traditional clothing showed the desire to continue wearing regionally specific garb, while Inuit designers at this year’s Indigenous Fashion Arts Festival reimagined modern ways to incorporate Inuit motifs and silhouettes in everyday clothing. Author Jamesie Fournier displayed the tension in a humorous short story, while a host of Inuit accepted into a TikTok accelerator program examined new ways to reach audiences. The standout was Kablusiak; in a solo feature on the trailblazing artist, Billy-Ray Belcourt scrutinized their work through the subversive lens of comedy, arguing that much of Kablusiak’s seemingly campy oeuvre is actually meant to interrogate the limits placed on Inuit (and more broadly Indigenous) art.
We loved bringing you these (and more) stories this year. If you enjoyed reading them as much as we enjoyed producing them, we hope you'll consider supporting Inuit art and artists year-round by signing up to our newsletter, subscribing to the Inuit Art Quarterly or making a donation. Through your generous support, you can bring stories like these to life and connect artists to opportunities.