Artists & Communities / Artists
Irene Avaalaaqiaq believes she was born in 1941. At the time, dates were not recorded for births on the land, and the only date she is sure of is her wedding day. She identifies her birthplace as the north shore of Tebesjuak Lake, approximately one hundred kilometres west of Baker Lake, Nunavut.
Both of Irene's parents died when she was young. She was taken to live with her grandparents for some years before they too passed away and another family adopted her. An Inuit girl's mother usually teaches her to sew; thus, it was not until adulthood that Irene first picked up a needle and thread. In spite of the fact that she eventually chose fabric and embroidery as her artistic medium, she says that she had great difficulty in learning to sew.
By the early 1970's, while the printmaking program in Baker Lake was flourishing, a number of women were experimenting with small stitched and appliqued pictures they called neevingatah, meaning "something to hang". In addition to her fabric work, she has made art pieces on paper using graphite, coloured pencils, stencil prints and linocut techniques. Irene made her print debut in the 1975 annual Baker Lake collection. She has also made a number of stone carvings, although her favourite medium continues to be fabric.
Like many Baker Lake residents, she spends as much time as possible "on the land". She is an accomplished hunter and is a member of the Baker Lake Rangers, a group that rescues people who have lost their way while hunting or camping. Now into her golden years, Irene Avaalaaqiaq is one of only a few Baker Lake women who actively hunt caribou.
For further information on a particular artist, please refer to the following websites.
Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association - Visit the Artists
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada - Artists Directory
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