Napachie Pootoogook

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Napachie Pootoogook
Napachie Pootoogook.jpg
Born(1938-06-26)June 26, 1938
Sarruq Island camp, Northwest Territories
DiedDecember 18, 2002(2002-12-18) (aged 64)
Cape Dorset, Nunavut
NationalityCanadian (Inuit)
Known forprintmaking, drawing

Napachie Pootoogook (June 26, 1938 – December 18, 2002) was a Canadian Inuit graphic artist who produced an important body of work.[1] Pootoogook's only written and spoken language was Inuktitut.

Life and family[edit]

Napachie Pootoogook is the only daughter of acclaimed artist Pitseolak Ashoona.[2] She was born in the Sarruq Island camp near south Baffin Island.[2] Her father, Ashoona, died while she was six or seven years old. After his death, Pootoogook, along with her mother and five brothers, lived a traditional nomadic Inuit lifestyle and survived with the support of their community to survive.[3] With her mother's encouragement, Napachie began drawing in her early twenties, developing her own unique style and viewpoint.[4] Her brothers, Kiugak and Qaqaq Ashoona, are well known sculptors. As well, two of her sisters-in-law, Mayureak and Sorosiluto Ashoona are well known graphic artists.

In the mid-1950s, Napachie entered into an arranged marriage with Eegyvudluk Pootoogook, an Inuit printmaker and carver, although the difficulties she saw in her parents' arranged marriage originally made her hesitant. The two were married in Kaiktuuq, Nunavut, then moved to Cape Dorset where they lived for most of their marriage, except for two years spent living in Iqaluit.[5] Pootoogook and her husband had eleven children, several of whom died young. Two children died in a house fire in the early 1960s, and one of their daughters drowned soon after.[3] Continuing the family's artistic legacy, their surviving daughter, Annie Pootoogook, grew up to be an important contemporary Inuit artist known for her prints and drawings. In her lifetime, Napachie was made a grandmother to many grandchildren.[3]

Pootoogook's only written and spoken language was Inuktitut.[3]


Pootoogook began drawing in her early twenties with her mother's encouragement.[2] Like many Inuit artists, she brought her drawings to the Cape Dorset-based West Baffin Cooperative (now known as the Kinngait Studios), an institution that would purchase artworks and offered art classes. Pootoogook sold her first drawings to James Archibald Houston for $20 when she was twenty-five years old.[6]

She continued to draw and make prints until her death, producing more than 5000 original works.[5]

Pootoogook's art was included in fourteen Cape Dorset print collections and has been featured in many anthologies of Inuit art since the 1960s.[1]

Inspiration and themes[edit]

Much of Pootoogook's early work documented traditional Inuit spirituality, mythology and superstitions.[2] In the 1970s, she began using her art to document traditional Inuit life and clothing as well as local histories.[2] The drawings created toward the end of her career told stories from her personal life and those of her ancestors, going back two generations.[7] Some of those later pieces illustrated darker aspects of Inuit life - covering themes like spousal abuse, starvation, forced marriage and infanticide.[7]

Techniques and methodologies[edit]

Pootoogook's drawings were primarily done with acrylic paints, black felt-tipped pens or colored pencils.[2]

Her artistic style changed after she completed courses in acrylic painting and drawing workshops at the West Baffin Co-operative in 1976. After taking those classes, her art featured more landscapes and "Western notions of spatial composition."[2]

In her later career, when depicting events from her life, Pootoogook experimented with figure drawing and lithography.[7]

Artistic career[edit]


In 1979, her work was included in an exhibition titled "Images of the Inuit from the Fraser Collection" at Simon Fraser University, B.C.[8]

In 1981, her work was included in an exhibition titled "Eskimo Games: Graphics and Sculpture" at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna in Rome, Italy, and a traveling exhibition titled "Arctic Vision: Art of the Canadian Inuit" organized by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs in Ottawa.[8]

In 1988, the University of Missouri included her work in an exhibition called "Inuit Women and their Art: Graphics and Wall-hangings."[8]

In 1989, the Winnipeg Art Gallery included her work in an exhibition titled "Inuit Graphic Art from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada."[8]

In 1999, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection staged an exhibition called, "Three Women, Three Generations: Drawings by Pitseolak Ashoona, Napachie Pootoogook & Shuvinai Ashoona".[1]

In 2002, Albers Gallery of Inuit Art in San Francisco staged an exhibition of Pootoogook's art called "Napachie Pootoogook: Drawings."[1]

In 2005, her work was shown alongside her daughter Annie Pootoogook's at Feheley Fine Arts Gallery in Toronto, Ontario. The exhibition, called "Windows on Kinngait", was the first time the two had their work displayed together outside of Cape Dorset.[9]

In 2014, Feheley Fine Arts Gallery staged an exhibition of approximately 150 drawings done by Pootoogook from 1996-2001 in an exhibit called, "Napachie Pootoogook: True North."[7]

In 2016, Pootoogook was curated into the exhibition "Akunnittinni: A Kinngait Family Portrait" along with her mother Pitseolak Ashoona and daughter Annie Pootoogook. Curated by Candice Hopkins at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.[10]

Museum collections[edit]

Napachie Pootoogook's work is represented in the permanent collections of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia in Vancouver, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa.[8]

Notable works[edit]

  • Eskimo Sea Dreams (1960)
  • Running Gull (1970)
  • Atchealda's Battle (1978)
  • The First Policeman I Saw (1978)
  • Woman Today (1980)
  • Nascopie Reef (1989)
  • Whaler's Exchange (1989)
  • Namonai's Vision (1996)
  • Woman's Emblem (1998)

Throat singing[edit]

In addition to her artistic capabilities, Pootoogook was also a talented throat singer.[1] The 1993 documentary Quanak & Napachie documented Pootoogook's throat singing and her performance in Ottawa at a Canada Day celebration. Her throat singing was also featured in the film Glory & Honor.[11]

Death and legacy[edit]

Pootoogook died of cancer in Cape Dorset at the age of 64.[12]

Her work is included in the collections of the Inuit Art Centre of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Canadian Museum of History, the Royal Ontario Museum and the National Gallery of Canada,[13] as well as private and public collections in Canada and the United States.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Napachie Pootoogook". Canada House Gallery.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Routledge, Marie (2013). "Napachie Pootoogook", North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Bibliographical Dictionary. New York: Routledge Publishing.
  3. ^ a b c d Pootoogook, Napachie (1994), "My Mother's Teachings", in Leroux, Odette; Jackson, Marion E.; Freeman, Minnie Adola, Inuit Women Artists: Voices from Cape Dorset, Vancouver: Canadian Museum of Civilization, pp. 135–138
  4. ^ ""Mannaruluujujuq" (Not So Long Ago): The Memories of Napachie Pootoogook" (PDF). Inuit Art Quarterly. 20 (3): 9–16. Fall 2005.
  5. ^ a b Leroux, Odette; Jackson, Marion E.; Freeman, Minnie Adola, eds. (1994), "Napachie Pootoogook", Inuit Women Artists: Voices from Cape Dorset, Vancouver: Canadian Museum of Civilization, p. 134
  6. ^ Crandall, Richard C. (2000). Inuit Art: A History. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company.
  7. ^ a b c d Boyd, Leslie (May 28, 2014). "Napachie Pootoogook 'True North' Exhibition".
  8. ^ a b c d e Stefania., Tiberini, Elvira (2011). Women in charge : artiste Inuit contemporanee = Inuit contemporary women artists = artistes Iunuit contemporaines. Museo preistorico-etnografico Luigi Pigorini. Milano: Officina libraria. ISBN 9788889854655. OCLC 778841636.
  9. ^ Rose, Tina (June 24, 2005). "Mother, daughter art team capture contemporary Cape Dorset: Toronto exhibit shows some of the darker realities of Inuit life". Nunatsiaq Online.
  10. ^ "Akunnittinni: A Kinngait Family Portrait—Pitseolak Ashoona | Napachie Pootoogook | Annie Pootoogook > Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA)". Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). Retrieved 2017-09-23.
  11. ^ Petten, Cheryl (August 2005). "Napachie Pootoogook: artist captures experiences for future generations". Windspeaker: 18–19.
  12. ^ "Napachie Pootoogook". National Gallery of Canada.
  13. ^ "Napachie Pootoogook". willock and sax gallery.

External links[edit]