Arguably the most celebrated artist to emerge from Cape Dorset, Kenojuak Ashevak, CC, RCA (1927 - 2013), burst onto the contemporary art scene in the early sixties and quickly became renowned for her captivating graphic sensibilities, her imaginative re-interpretation of Inuit subjects, and her keen sense of composition and colour. Born in 1927 and raised on southern Baffin Island, Kenojuak spent her childhood living a largely traditional Inuit life, migrating from camp to camp and living off the land. Both she and her husband, Johnniebo, began experimenting with carving and drawing in the late fifties, and in 1966 they permanently settled in Cape Dorset in order to raise their growing family.
Despite a difficult life marked by a lengthy battle with tuberculosis and the loss of several children, Kenojuak’s optimistic and enduring spirit was irrepressible throughout her life. She was represented in nearly every annual print release since 1959, while also actively participating in special projects and commissions, and acting as an ambassador for Inuit art around the world. In 1970, Kenojuak’s famous and most recognizable print, Enchanted Owl (1960), was selected to be reproduced for a stamp commemorating the centennial of the Northwest Territories. Owls became a signature theme for Kenojuak, as she explored their form and symbolism in countless renditions over the course of her career.
In recognition of her outstanding contributions to both Inuit and Canadian art, Kenojuak was honored with numerous awards, including the Governor General’s Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts in 2008. She was also made a Companion of the Order of Canada and awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Aboriginal Achievement Ceremony in Vancouver in 1996. Kenojuak continued to actively promote Inuit art well into her eighties, traveling across the country in 2009 to participate in the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Kinngait Studios held in Ottawa, Ontario. In January 2013, after a lifetime of unprecedented artistic achievement, Kenojuak passed away peacefully at home surrounded by her loving family.