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Kiawak Ashoona

Arts (1997)

You might call Kiawak Ashoona, Canada’s gift to the world. World leaders like former U.S. president Ronald Reagan and Germany’s Helmut Schmidt are owners of original Mr. Ashoona works of art. Over the years, it has become customary in Canada to present visiting dignitaries an Ashoona sculpture. His gift was further extended to all corners of the world when his Sedna was reproduced on a postage stamp by Canada Post in 1980. This self-taught carver, who hails from the Eastern Arctic’s Cape Dorset, is one of the last remaining survivors of that original generation of Inuit artists who brought their art form to the world. Mr. Ashoona’s work is known for its incredible detail; for its depictions of fantastic creatures which stem from the artist’s mythical imagination; and for the works’ power and presence. In the world of Inuit art, the name Kiawak Ashoona is invoked with reverence by the new generation of artists who have followed in his footsteps. It is impossible for art historians, curators, collectors and students to explore Inuit art without devoting attention to this shy, retiring man who has become one of Canada’s greatest artists. Since the 1950s, his carvings have been shown in 75 exhibitions throughout Canada, the United States and in Europe. Leading museums and galleries who have his pieces in their permanent collections include New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Canada, the Montreal Museum of Fine Art and the Art Gallery of Ontario. At age 63, when many are considering retirement, Mr. Ashoona continues his work under the light of the midnight sun and the darkness of the Arctic winter. He was a recipient of a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for his work in bringing the wonder that is Inuit sculpting to the attention of the world.