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Yellowknife-born Inuvialuk artist shortlisted for $10,000 award

Kablusiak, an Inuk artist born in Yellowknife. Photo: Elyse Bouvier

Kablusiak, a Yellowknife-born Inuvialuk artist, is one of four people shortlisted for a $10,000 northern art award honouring the late Kenojuak Ashevak.

The Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award, overseen by the Inuit Art Foundation, pays tribute to the late Ashevak, known for her impact on other Inuit artists and her owl prints. One work, The Enchanted Owl, was featured on a Canada Post stamp.

Kablusiak, Eldred Allen, Tarralik Duffy, and Couzyn van Heuvelen have been shortlisted for the 2021 award, each receiving $3,000. The grand prize is $10,000.

Kablusiak, born in Yellowknife and raised in Edmonton, now lives in Calgary, producing art designed to explore the connection between Inuit culture and growing up in an urban community.



“My artwork is about dealing with preconceived notions of Inuit and my experience of being an urban Inuvialuk, and sort of working through that diaspora,” Kablusiak said.

“I try to find comical ways of entering that, so it’s not so heavy for myself and the viewer.”

The works range from drawings and sculptures to performances and photography. In one series, soapstone and tung oil sculptures reflect consumerism and modernity.

A Kablusiak soapstone carving of a Listerine bottle titled Listerine (2018). Photograph: Norberg Hall

Kablusiak praised the entirely Inuit judging panel for the award.

“That just blew me away even more than being shortlisted, to have that level of autonomy,” they said, describing the “boring” items they would buy if chosen to receive the $10,000.

“I want to have a proper office chair and a proper desk. I’ve just been working in my studio using an old IKEA table,” they said. “I’ve also been working on this old laptop, which is a really good test of somebody’s patience.”