Kiawak Ashoona (RCA)
Born: 1933 Male
Kiawak was born in the community of Tariugajak on Baffin Island, Nunavut, on September 16, 1933. He was one of the last generations to be born on the land and raised with the traditional lifestyle of the Inuit people. Kiawak was the fourth son of the noted tribe leader Ashoona, who helped to form the village of Cape Dorset when he brought his hunting group in off the land and settled there, at around the same time as Pootoogook and Saila. Kiawak’s mother was the legendary graphic artist Pitseolak Ashoona (RCA). All six of her children made art, though Kiawak may be the finest figurative carver of his generation.
In 1945, after the death of his father, Kiawak’s mother relocated her family to the community of Cape Dorset, to be closer to relatives. Pitseolak and her children were introduced to the carving trade in Cape Dorset. In 1947, Kiawak’s first carving made from walrus tusk was traded to the Baffin Trading Company by his brother, Qaquq, for some large biscuits. As art grew as a new economic opportunity and hunting declined, Kiawak, like many Inuit people, transitioned from hunting to creating and selling carvings. His work focused primarily on scenes of Inuit life, such as hunting scenes, with some animal carvings.
His “Tornaaq and Young” piece was selected as the cover image for the catalogue of the famous 1971-73 exhibition “Sculpture/Inuit. Sculpture of the Inuit: Masterworks of the Canadian Arctic” that toured internationally.
His works have been widely exhibited and collected around the world. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2000 and elected to the Royal Canadian Academy in 2003.