Kinngait artist chosen for national Governor General’s Award

By Kierstin Williams, Nunatsiaq News - March 12, 2024

Shuvinai Ashoona is third Inuk to receive honour

An artist from Kinngait is one of eight recipients of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts.

Shuvinai Ashoona is a winner in the Artistic Achievement Award category for her unique and often colourful pencil and ink drawings, the Canadian Council for the Arts announced Wednesday.

Ashoona is the third Inuk to receive the honour, after Germaine Arnaktauyok in 2021 and the late Kenojuak Ashevak in 2008.

The Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts has recognized exceptional careers and contributions to Canada’s arts community for 25 years.

Ashoona’s work to capture northern landscapes and contemporary Inuit life is inspired by Inuit mythology and the wildlife of her home in Kinngait, according to a news release announcing the win.

Her work has adorned institutions across the world. Her most recent solo exhibition, titled When I Draw, opened in January in London, England, as part of a celebration honouring the 65th anniversary of the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative Ltd.

Over the years, Ashoona has received numerous accolades for her work, including a special mention by the jury of the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in 2022, the Gershon Iskowitz Prize in 2018, and her election to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2013.

Robert Kardosh, owner of the Marion Scott Gallery in Vancouver, nominated Ashoona for the award.

He said her art is innovative.

“Ashoona’s unconventional artistic vision has successfully challenged and revolutionized how the public perceives Inuit art and contemporary Indigenous art more generally, helping to create a new space for expression and artistic freedom,” he said in a writeup on the Canada Council for the Art website announcing the nominations.

Ashoona’s work will appear alongside pieces from other recipients in an exhibition for the 2024 Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa for fall 2024.

In addition to Ashoona, the other Artistic Achievement Award winners are Barbara Astman and Greg Staats of Toronto, Dominique Blain and Don Ritter of Montreal and Marjorie Beaucage of Duck Lake, Sask.

Louise Lemieux Bérubé of Montreal was awarded the Saidye Bronfman Award and Michelle Jacques of Saskatoon, Sask., received the Outstanding Contribution Award.

Located in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, Nunatsiaq News is dedicated to covering affairs in Nunavut and the Nunavik territory of Quebec since 1973. It has been a partner to ArcticToday and its predecessors since 2016.