Born in 1955 in a hunting camp near Ikpiarjuk (Arctic Bay), NU, Manasie Akpaliapik is a prominent artist currently based between Montreal, QC and Ottawa, ON renowned for his highly detailed and evocative sculptures made of organic materials such as whalebone. His parents Lazaroosee Akpaliapik and Nakyuraq Akpaliapik were both carvers, though Akpaliapik was first exposed to carving from his adopted grandparents Peter and Elisapee Kanangnaq Ahlooloo and great-aunt Paniluk Qamanirq . By carefully observing their techniques, Akpaliapik began to learn how to carve and started to practice his own skills on leftover materials around the age of ten.
Akpaliapik was dedicated to growing his artistic abilities and attended Red River College in Winnipeg, MB before participating in an apprenticeship in Montreal, QC. Akpaliapik’s early sculptures were highly detailed and representational but as his technical skills increased his style evolved to include more depictions of Inuit legends and myths. Akpaliapik depicts human connection to animals, Inuit legends and aspects of shamanism, as well as contemporary social issues that threaten Inuit communities. He also draws from and incorporates elements of his own personal narrative, as Akpaliapik sees carving as a healing practice . Foregrounded in his work is an emphasis on the balance required between all living things.
“Doing my artwork, it connects me to my culture,” Akpaliapik says. “Being an artist gives you a chance to have a voice. Even when you think you are nobody, you can convey something through your art.”
The Inuit Art Quarterly has featured Akpaliapik and his work in numerous issues, including the cover for the Spring 1990 and Winter 1993 issues. In 1995, he was the subject of Cathy Gulking’s documentary Cry of the Ancestors: The Art of Manasie Akpaliapik, which aired on CBC in June 1995 . Akpaliapik’s work has appeared in multiple group and solo exhibitions in public and commercial galleries across Canada and abroad, and he has been an international representative for Inuit art and culture. In 1989, he was one of the Canadian representatives at the Ainu Cultural Society conference in Shraoi Hokaido, Japan, and in 1995 he carved the inukshuk that was used as the logo for the Immaginario show in Verona, Italy, organized by Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea.
His work was the subject of the exhibition Manasie Akpaliapik at the Art Gallery of Ontario from 2014–17, and from 2021–23, Manasie Akpaliapik: Inuit Universe. The Raymond Brousseau Collection at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, featuring 40 carvings made between 1997 and 2003. His works are a part of numerous major collections including the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, ON, the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, QC, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec in Québec, QC and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, ON, among others.
In February 2023 Akpaliapik was longlisted for the 2023 Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award.