Hannah Kigusiuq was born in 1931 near Garry Lake in the centre of the Canadian Arctic. She lived a traditional Inuit way of life as a child, living off a subsistence-based diet. In her mid-twenties, she had to leave her home when her husband, Kuuk, was afflicted with the bout of tuberculosis which had affected hundreds of Inuit in the 1950’s and caused most to relocate to Baker Lake. While Kuuk remained in the hospital for two years, Hannah took up drawing to support herself and her husband. At this time, many residents of Baker Lake were turning to art to supplement their small incomes and cope with the unsettling decade of disease and relocation.
With encouragement from the local crafts officer, Boris Kotelewitz, Hannah’s natural talent emerged rapidly. She blossomed as an artist in the ensuing years, fostering a distinctive style and standing out amongst her artistic peers.
In her book, “North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary”, Marion Jackson expounds on Hannah’s immense talent that allows viewers a glimpse into Inuit culture.
“Kigusiuq draws inspiration for her art from her experience living on the land as a young woman, and she typically depicts communal activities from traditional Inuit lifestyle. Winter camp scenes, groups traveling on the land by foot or dogteam, and Inuit celebrating traditional drum dances are among her favored subjects, though Kigusiuq occasionally illustrates episodes from traditional Inuit mythology and from the Christian Bible as well. She is best known for her carefully controlled graphite pencil line drawings in which she situates large numbers of people and animals in complex relationships with one another frequently adding Inuktitut syllabic notations to clarify her intent or to present conversation among individuals. She rarely incorporates color, preferring instead the clarity of carefully-drawn line” (Jackson, 1995).
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