Internationally acclaimed as one of the premier Inuit artists, Simon Tookoome was self-taught. He began carving in the late 1960’s after moving to Baker Lake from Gjoa Haven to escape the threat of starvation. At this early point in his artistic career he worked only in antler and stone. He later moved on to drawing and stonecut printmaking. Simon found printmaking to be an appealing blend between his two preferred art forms – carving and drawing – as it requires both skills. He went so far as to cut his own stone for his prints, drawing from his background in construction and mining.
Simon had many occupations aside from artist and manual labourer. He worked in fisheries and education (teaching carving to children); he was a cameraman and interviewer for the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation, a justice of the peace, a drumdancer, a skillful hunter, a master whipper, and a respected elder. Simon also co-authored a children’s book with Sheldon Oberman called, Shaman’s Nephew: A Life in the Far North. It won the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian children’s non-fiction in 2000. This book chronicles Simon’s own experiences of living a traditional Inuit lifestyle, including his encounters with non-Inuit culture for the first time. While accomplished in all of his many careers, Simon’s preferred occupation remained art.
His artistic career lasted forty-five years, and included solo and group exhibitions all over the world. Each year from 1971-1990 he contributed to Baker Lake’s annual print collection facilitated by the Sanavik Co-operative.
Simon’s work stands out amongst other artist in this region for its particularly unique imagery. His pieces provide viewers with a glimpse of the shamanic world. Images of spiritual encounters, transformation, and the vibrancy of the Inuit people of Baker Lake are brought to life in his art.
Exhibition information available upon request.