Kiugak Ashoona

Kiugak Ashoona
Photo Barbara Lipton


Kiugak (Kiawak) Ashoona was an accomplished sculptor and printmaker from Tariugajak, NU who later on relocated to Kinngait (Cape Dorset). Ashoona began carving in 1940 at the age of fourteen, making miniature sleds out of walrus ivory [1]. He was one of the first artists to begin carving in Kinngait and was an early participant in the art production movement in 1951 [2].

Ashoona’s sculptures are recognizable for their dramatic imagery and fluidity and are often highly detailed and depicted in dynamic postures. Ashoona frequently used serpentine as a medium for his sculpture and would polish the surface of the stone to highlight splashes of mottling and changing veins of colour. Ashoona preferred to begin his pieces by first carving the heads of his figures, which resulted in intense and refined facial expressions [3]. He also valued taking time with his sculpture to ensure that he was satisfied with the quality and detail of his work [4].

The 1988 piece titled Hunter is an adept demonstration of Ashoona’s skill. The spear lengthens the reach of the hunter’s arm and draws the viewer’s attention towards the hunter’s face. The hunter’s body is positioned in a state of tension as they are just about to release with all of the weight balanced above the right foot. The viewer is captivated by the drama of the moment and the focus of the hunter’s expression. Many of Ashoona’s sculptures reference Inuit oral traditions. Eagles were a frequent motif for Ashoona, appearing as shamans, spirits and in states of transformation. The relationships between people and non-human beings to one another and the land comprised the major themes of Ashoona's artistic narrative.
Although less well known for his prints, Ashoona was a talented illustrator. He visualized subjects within his prints with the same tactile sense of flow as he might have carved them out of stone. His earlier prints are monochromatic and largely of animals, while his later works incorporate more colours and depict community events and stories. In the engraving Bear Attacking Walrus (1963) hatch marks and fine lines represent the skin and musculature of the walrus in a style evocative of the curves and changes in light of his sculpture. His illustrative skill is further evident in his incised walrus tusks, which feature detailed renderings of Arctic wildlife.

Ashoona has received extensive recognition for his work. In 1980 his sculpture Sea Goddess was reproduced on the Canadian seventeen-cent stamp. In 1997 he was the recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award (now referred to as the Indspire Award). He was invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2000 and elected as a Member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2003.



June 21, 1988: One of Ashoona's carvings was presented to U.S. president Ronald Reagan at the Summit Meeting in Toronto.

1971: Ashoona's sculpture, Howling Spirit (Tornrak) and its Young (1962) is featured on the cover of the Sculpture/Inuit touring exhibition catalogue.

Artist Work

About Kiugak Ashoona


Graphic Arts, Sculpture

Artistic Community:

Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU

Date of Birth:

Artists may have multiple birth years listed as a result of when and where they were born. For example, an artist born in the early twentieth century in a camp outside of a community centre may not know/have known their exact date of birth and identified different years.

Tariugajak, NU

Date of Death:

Artists may have multiple dates of death listed as a result of when and where they passed away. Similar to date of birth, an artist may have passed away outside of a community centre or in another community resulting in different dates being recorded.

The Igloo Tag Trademark
The Igloo Tag Trademark is an internationally recognized symbol that denotes handmade, original artwork made by Inuit artists in Canada. Established in 1958, the Trademark is now managed by the Inuit Art Foundation. The appearance of the Igloo Tag on an artist profile means they have had the Trademark applied to their artwork.

Edit History

January 29, 2018 Updated by: Rebecca Gray
September 12, 2017 Created by: Maddy Tripp