Kenojuak Ashevak was born in Ikirasaq, Baffin Island in 1927. Her father was a shaman, who clashed with other members of the community who had recently converted to Christianity, and he was killed when Ashevak was six years old. After his death, her family moved to live with Ashevak's maternal grandmother, who taught her traditional craft techniques including sealskin repair and caribou hide preparation.
In 1946, Ashevak married and began to have children, but was separated from her family from 1952 to 1955 by a stay in Quebec City's Parc Savard hospital, where she convalesced from tuberculosis. Upon her recovery, Ashevak began working with Inuit art promoter James Archibald Houston, and in 1959 she and a group of other Cape Dorset artists formed the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative workshop. Throughout her artistic career, Ashevak produced thousands of drawings, etchings, stone cut prints and soapstone sculptures, often featuring brightly coloured, stylized representations of animals and mythical beings.
She was the subject of a National Film Board documentary in 1963, made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1967, awarded honorary doctorates from Queen's University and the University of Toronto, and her work is held in numerous private and public collections across Canada and internationally.
Ashevak died on January 8, 2013 in Cape Dorset.
This story first appeared in the February 2013 edition of the Legend. For a look at the full issue in a flipbook format, follow this link.