Billy Markosak (Merkosak)

Born in 1967 (Baffin Island, Nunavut)

Billy Merkosak started drawing when he was four years old. His artistic inspiration comes from local archaeological artifacts and revered stories from the past shared by elders. These tell the traditional lifestyles of the Inuit and influence their art: “I try to draw on my own experiences and the real experiences behind these stories, and adapt these stories to our modern way of life.”

As an artist from Nunavut, Merkosak is best known for his remarkable line of whale bone carvings – including transformations and graphic illustrations – occasionally producing works in stone, marble, ivory, and watercolour paintings. He is recognized as a major manufacturer of traditional masks. He is also one of the few mask-sculpting artists in Nunavut, along with Tim Pitseolak, Taqqialuk Nuna and Sam Toonoo.

Sculpting or drawing masks is essential, according to Billy, in order to maintain a strong connection between the past and the present by illustrating and transmitting the myths and old stories of Inuit elders.