“Wide and deep in content.”

The power and the beauty of Yellowknife artist Germaine Arnaktauyok has been recognized at the highest level.

Arnaktauyok is the recipient of a 2021 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts and an associated $25,000 prize.

The Canada Council for the Arts announced eight recipients of the award on Tuesday, all chosen for their exceptional careers and their remarkable contribution to the visual and media arts and fine crafts.

Artwork by Germaine Arnaktauyok. image courtesy of the Canada Council for the Arts

“I was always drawing since I was little and I never questioned it and just kept going,” Arnaktauyok said in her video. “I’m 74 years old and I’m still at it.”

Born near Iglulik and now a resident of Yellowknife, much of her work depicts Inuit legends in pen ink drawings.

“I try to put myself in the story, you know, how they think, how they breathe, and I make them alive, I guess, in my mind,” said Arnaktauyok.

“Germaine Arnaktauyok has charted her own course and created her own unique visual language, and her lifelong interest in her own unique Inuit culture has been an inspiration to many younger artists,” stated Darlene Coward Wight, curator of Inuit art at The Winnipeg Art Gallery, who nominated Arnaktauyok.

‘Wide and deep in content’

Though dates have yet to be confirmed, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre will be displaying Arnaktauyok’s drawings in a show in 2022.

Sarah Swan, Yellowknife art curator, said Arnaktauyok’s work is “wide and deep in content” as well as being varied in medium and themes throughout her career.

Swan describes her art as atmospheric, moody, evocative, mystical and striking. “When you look at it, it hits you hard and is quite powerful as well as being soft and beautiful at the same time.”

She said the Northern artist’s Governor General award will inspire younger generations of Inuit artists, but also makes even the NWT’s lack of artistic resources.

“The NWT is really terrible at appreciating artists,” Swan said, pointing to the lack of territorial art galleries. “We have almost zero infrastructure and almost zero educational opportunities for artists here.” Despite that, she said the talented cohort of Yellowknife artists have thrived.

“I’m hoping having a Governor General award winning artist living here in Yellowknife will draw the territory’s attention to the fact that we have a huge gaping hole here,” she said.

~ with files from Derek Neary

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