Niap Composition (2020) Watercolour
Niap Composition (2020) Watercolour 29.75 x 11 in COURTESY FEHELY FINE ARTS

Atiq (Naming Your Soul)

5 Inuit artists tell the stories of their names.

Comprising stories from Inuit artists and writers across multiple media and formats, the IAQ offers an intimate look at an oft-overlooked aspect of Inuit creative life; the way names shape and influence not only identity, but also art. 

As a culture of mononyms, or single names, passed down throughout generations, a pivotal aspect of Inuit naming practices is the “namesake” from which children receive their atiq, or “soul name”. Although the “namesake” is still practised today, layers of contact and colonization have since altered the stories of these monikers. Although some may be familiar with the painful history of the E-numbers, a numbered system that replaced traditional names in government documents as well as the colonial educational and medical systems in the 1940s, changes to Inuit naming practices does not end there. In the 1970s, as part of an initiative to collect census data, the Canadian Government began assigning surnames to replace these numbers. As a result, many Inuit took the names of one of their ancestors as their family names, most of which are still in use today.

Throughout this series, artists and writers who have reclaimed or embraced their names share their own unique journeys with their names that span their lives and careers. Together, we seek to explore the complex power and intimate knowledge of not only their own names but the practices of naming.

Faber Jonasie Umiaq Family White

What Every Young Inuit Writer Needs to Know

by Emily Henderson

One writer’s letter to her younger self.

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What’s in a Name?

by Napatsi Folger

An Inuk graphic artist explores her relationship to her namesakes through comics.

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Folger Napatsi Naming Comic
Ivalu Feheley Fine Arts -Niap


by Niap (Nancy Saunders)

An artist reacts to those who mispronounce her name.

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BIG MAN or I Will Learn to Hunt

by Jordan Angunayuak Carpenter

Jordan Angunayuak Carpenter wrestles with the ramifications of his own name.

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Kangoakrex - Mistaken Identities
Jason Sikoak Sacrilege

Shiwak to Sikoak: Taking Back My True Surname

by Jason Sikoak

A graphic artist refutes the colonial imposition on their identity.

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To say leading this project was an extraordinary privilege would be an understatement. With each draft that rolled into me, whether it be poetry, personal essay or comic strip, the weight of being permitted a glimpse into the naming stories of my friends and colleagues floored me every time without fail. For all of us, our reflections on our names or the way we claim or reclaim names are lifelong processes as we spring from communities with both rich naming traditions as well as histories of suppression and control over our naming practices. Inevitably, we are left with little choice but to view our names through the lens of decades of challenges to the formation of our individual and collective identities, yet throughout each piece a spirit of pride, resilience and continuity takes centre stage. I am thrilled to provide a platform for these rich stories and am overjoyed to share them with you.

Qujanamiik (Thank you),

Emily Henderson

Ontario Arts Council
This series was made possible with the generous support of the Ontario Arts Council.
TD Ready Commitment
This series was made possible with the generous support of the TD Ready Commitment.