1941- Irene Avaalaaqiaq Tiktaalaaq is one of Canada’s most renowned Inuit artists. Her work is rooted in her lived experience, often dealing with themes of being an orphan and Inuit stories her grandmother told her. Avaalaaqiaq Tiktaalaaq is noted for her drawings, prints, and wall hangings. Irene was born on the north shore of Tebesjuak Lake near Baker Lake, Nunavut, Canada and although she believes she was born in 1941, she was once told by an acquaintance that her actual year of birth was 1936. At that time in the area, the dates of births on the land were not generally recorded. Her mother, Gualittuaq, died shortly after Avaalaaqiaq Tiktaalaaq was born, and with her father, Itiplui, unable to care for her, she was raised on the land by her grandparents in the traditional Inuit style. Speaking of her childhood, Avaalaaqiaq Tiktaalaaq said:. Avaalaaqiaq Tiktaalaaq began her art career between 1969-1970 with small soapstone carvings, often of animals with human heads. In 1999, the University of Guelph awarded Avaalaaqiaq Tiktaalaaq an honorary doctorate of laws in recognition of her contribution to the development of Inuit art and her leadership role in the Nunavut community of Baker Lake. In her address, Avaalaaqiaq Tiktaalaaq remarked, “It makes me feel proud that my art is recognized after so many years of being an artist. Her address to the audience at the ceremony for the Ontario Agricultural College and the College of Arts was delivered in her native Inuktitut, with her friend Sally Qimmiu’naaq Webster acting as translator. Her works are part of the collections at the National Gallery of Canada, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre and the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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