Kiagak Ashoona, Growling Lion, 1965.

Kiagak Ashoona, Walrus with Engraved Tusk, 1962.

Kiugak Ashoona: Stories and Imaginings from Cape Dorset

Kiugak Ashoona has the longest artistic career of any living Cape Dorset artist, dating back to the late 1940s. In the 1950s his subjects and style were realistic, but this soon changed. He had grown up in a camp led by Kiakshuk, a powerful shaman, whose daughter he later married. Kiakshuk and other members of Kiugak’s family were the source of much knowledge about shamanism and Inuit mythology, and by the late 1950s he was putting this awareness into his carvings.

Research for this exhibition is based largely on interviews conducted with the artist in Winnipeg, Cape Dorset, and Yellowknife. It also includes a study of 160 of his original drawings, created from 1989 to 1991. The drawings and interviews reveal that many of his subjects are actually from specific stories, such as Natturalik, the eagle who abducted a young woman. The works sometimes depict specific shamans who were powerful influences in camp life.

Six sculptures in the exhibition are from the WAG’s permanent collection, and approximately 30 carvings will be borrowed from other public and private collections. A number of the artist’s drawings are also included.

In a publication accompanying this exhibition, Kiugak Ashoona talks about his family history which includes the presence of many notable shamans, such as Alariaq, Aliguq, Namonai, and Kiakshuk. He relates fascinating tales of the shamans and great spirits and their interactions with the human world. Their stories, real or imagined, form the iconography of his artwork.

Exhibition supported by the Dorothy Strelsin Foundation and Samuel and Esther Sarick.

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