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The Story of One Nunavik Family’s Printmaking Journey

Mar 28, 2023
by Prim, with illustrations by Jessica Malegana

What are the roots of printmaking in Nunavik? Prim (Pasa Mangiok) tells the story of how one early Puvirnituq workshop helped create an art-making lineage that continues to this day.



In the early 1970s, in the small Inuit town of Puvirnituq, QC, there was a printmaking workshop that consisted of participants from all over Nunavik. In this workshop, the artists used different materials to make the print matrices: instead of using linoleum to carve their designs, they used soapstone. Although more accessible during this time, stones aren’t naturally flat, so the carvers had to create a flat surface before beginning their designs. After making the amount of limited prints needed, they’d score lines on the soapstone to prevent further use.


Spoon Press

Alongside the matrices, the printmakers used similar materials such as acrylic paint and ink, laying colour on the stone before adding paper and applying pressure with a spoon or a machine called the Gutenberg Press, a mechanical device which allows the ink to be transferred with the necessary amount of pressure. These artists sold their pieces through their local co-op, which distributed them all over Quebec with the aid of Les Fédération Coopératives du Nouveau-Quebec. 


Tivi with Small Mary

One of the participants in the Puvirnituq workshop was named Tivi Paningajak, who later became well known for his many prints alongside other artists like Tivi Etok and Leah Qumaluk. But his artistic skills were not limited to printmaking: he made jewellery—necklaces and rings made from ivory—sculptures and even qulliqs from soapstone and his own hunting gear. He created from whatever his mind could imagine. 


Tivi Camping

His daughter, Mary Paningajak, said that when her father went camping he would come back with pieces ready to be sold at the co-op. Beyond the pure joy the artists felt for creating, one of the reasons they started to sell prints was to support their family financially, to purchase hunting supplies and to provide food for their children during famine.


Makivik Workshop

In the decades after the 1970s, printmaking became less popular. But not that long ago, the Makivik Corporation, Kativik Ilisarniliriniq and other organizations started to hold printmaking workshops in Nunavik again, attracting artists like Qumaq Iyaituk, Louisa Kanarjuaq and Pasa Mangiok to the medium. The more workshops there are, the more Inuit are interested, ranging in age from teenagers to elders. 


Younger Mary Drawing

One of these printmakers is Mary Paningajak, now a well-known artist herself. Before her artistic career started, she was a teacher who drew in her free time. She decided to pursue art after seeing how positively other people reacted to her artwork.


Mary Selling Work

For years she attended art classes and workshops to help her expand her artistic skills, learning sketching, stencilling, wood burning and printmaking. She started to sell her prints to teachers, and when she visited the towns of Kangiqsujuaq and Ivujivik, she brought her pieces there to be sold.

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Mary Calm

Mary’s path as an artist wasn’t easy at first; she began putting sensitive topics in her prints as a method to help her cope. She now incorporates her life experiences, Inuit history and culture and what she enjoys in life into her pieces. She says that making prints helped her as a person and as an artist, teaching her to accept the flaws and errors that occur in the prints and also in the wider world. Over the last 50 years, printmaking has offered a way for Nunavik artists to connect with and present their Inuit identity and culture, providing both financial resources and an outlet for their creativity. Printmakers like Mary Paningajak continue the tradition, expressing their points of view and renewing their connection to history through images and art. 


Prim (Pasa Mangiok) is a visual artist from Ivujivik, Nunavik, QC, whose practice includes painting, printmaking, digital art and sculpture.

Jessica Malegana is a multimedia artist from the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, NT. She creates illustrations that speak to her cultural heritage using a mix of pencil crayon, watercolour and ink.


CanadaCouncilLogoLongThis project was made possible with the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

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