Born in 1958, Kudluajuk Ashoona is an emerging graphic artist from Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU. She began her artistic career in 2011, inspired by the artwork of her daughter Nicotye Samayualie . Ashoona has steadily become a respected figure among contemporary graphic artists and is recognizable for her retrospective illustrations of daily life in the North.
Ashoona’s works are stylistically realistic and rooted in personal experience. Her nostalgic drawings recreate scenes from her collection of photographs, most of which were taken during the 1970s and 1980s . Ashoona’s drawings also document her experiences as a young woman living in Kinngait. In her works, characters watch a duo play electric guitars, enjoy a picnic with soda and chips, go out for trips on the land and visits with people inside their homes. Cultural influences from the South appear in her works, particularly in the fashion. In one instance, a young child sports a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey. Although her works largely depict leisure activities and community gatherings, painful memories are also poignantly recorded by Ashoona’s hand. Many of her works are untitled, leaving the viewer to speculate about the people and places depicted in the images, and juxtapose the intimacy of the subject matter with a degree of privacy . Few of her works are assigned specific dates, placing her narrative album within a non-linear history rather than a rigid timeline.
Though less often the focal point, Ashoona’s renditions of detailed, multi-hued terrains convey the texture of the land throughout different times of year. In the drawing Walking Away (2014), she meticulously illustrates each rock in the foreground as well as the crags of the hills behind the town. The long shadows suggest that it could be a summer evening. The photographer remains present, their shadow visible as they pause to capture the image. In contrast, Ashoona’s recent images of kamiik (boots) are colourful and depicted on white backgrounds, allowing the focus to centre on the objects. Lacking an apparent narrative context, the kamiik series are a departure from Ashoona’s focus on landscapes, people and scenery but retains the quality of her thoughtful attention to detail.
Ashoona was included in the Cape Dorset Annual Print Collection for the first time in 2014. Later that same year her works appeared in her first exhibition, A New Perspective (2014), held at Feheley Fine Arts Gallery in Toronto, ON. The exhibition highlighted the works of female graphic artists including Siassie Keneally (1969-2018), Olooreak Etungat and Saimaiyu Akesuk. Two of Ashoona’s prints from 2015, Sunday Afternoon and His and Hers, were featured in the Cape Dorset Annual Print Collection alongside the works of her daughter. She also appeared in the June 2016 exhibition Qua’yuk tchi’gae’win: Making Good at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which featured the works of indigenous artists held in the institution’s permanent collection and focused on the responses of indigenous communities to the impacts of colonial traumas . Her works are currently held in the permanent collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery in Winnipeg, MB.