Linda LaMarche Grade 5/6
Kenojuak by Fraser (click on the image to see the slideshow)

Kenojuak's Life

In the fall of 1927 Seelaki gave birth to a second daughter. That daughter was named Kenojuak. Kenojuak was named after her dead grandfather, because the Inuit people believe that when someone is named after someone who is dead, that person gets all the love and respect previously given to that person before death. Kenojuak was born in Ikerrsak, a campsite on south Baffin Island. Baffin Island is an Island in Nunavut; it was in the Northwest Territories when she was born but now it is in Nunavut.

Kenojuak's family respects her and she respects them. Kenojuak has one brother and one sister. Kenojuak's mom Seelaki was an average wife in the Inuit society, she would hunt, fish, and prepare food and clothing. But, Kenojuak's dad now that is a different story, Kenojuak's dad was loved and feared by almost everyone, he was a shaman. He was feared by the white men because they thought he was insane and they didn't know when he was going to lose control. He had more knowledge than average mortals and he would help all the Inuit people. Her father believed he could predict weather, predict good hunting seasons, turn into a walrus,but one thing he could do like no other mortal was make fish swarm at the surface so it was easier to fish. To Kenojuak her family was very important to her, she loved and respected them all. They taught her almost everything she knew so, she knew that she should respect them.

In 1949 Kenojuak married a man named Johnniebo after her fathers death which is one of the interesting things I talked about at the end of this chapter. They did not live in one specific place they moved from camp to camp depending on the seasons. Kenojuak and Johnniebo did art together. In 1966 her and Johnniebo settled in Cape Dorset. They both did art together until Johnniebo died in 1973.

Kenojuak's family taught her how to be influenced by herself and he land. They also taught her about her land and of course, that is what her art is 100% based on. Kenojuak's home is very beautiful, but it is not the beautiful landscape that influenced her it is the beautiful animals that she paints, draws and does sculptures of. The animals in Kenojuak's art are inspired by her parents.

Kenojuak taught herself how to do magnificent art. All she did was look at how other Inuit artist did art, and she did a mixture of what the other artists' art looked like and what she wanted it to look like.

Kenojuak's earliest memory was a long boat ride. Kenojuak's earliest memory was in 1931, when she was on a small boat owned and piloted by her grandfather Alarek. Almost every member of Kenojuak's family from Ikerrsak was on the boat, Alarek was traveling to visit relatives in Ivujivik, a community on the coast of Hudson strait and the rest of Kenojuak's family was traveling to Pujunai (Mansel Island) to hunt and fish.

An interesting thing about the middle of Kenojuak's life was the way her father was killed and how her mom showed awesome endurance. One day when Kenojuak's father was getting ready to go hunting he had a fight with another man. Soon after he started to go insane, he would cry, scream, and even jump around and break things. Kenojuak's mom Seelaki would try to calm him but it wouldn't work. One day he couldn't take it anymore, he ran outside. Kenojuak heard seven gunshots and then she and her family saw something terrible. They had to watch all of the Once Great Shaman's blood soak into the snow and ice, and then the men who shot him tied rocks to his ankles, neck and wrists and they threw him into the ocean. After the men threw him into the water they threw all his belongings in and they shot his dogs, but seven ran away and the Inuit people believe that the dogs carry his restless spirit. Kenojuak's father's death is a day that will stay in her memory forever.

After Kenojuak's, father's death, Kenojuak's family began to starve. All of her family friends would donate food when possible, but often it wasn't enough. Kenojuak's mom would hunt but she never got as much food as her husband had. But, Seelaki showed great endurance. She had a fourth child in that cold long winter, it was a boy. So now she had to support 4 people plus herself. But gradually the snow melted, Kenojuak and her family then left that camp on a whale boat owned by family friend never to return to that community. It is amazing that it is legal to kill in the North West Territories and how much the people can endure.

I am not sure if Kenojuak is alive or dead. Because my information did not say, I assume that she is alive today.

Kenojuak's Art

Kenojuak lived and did art in a hard time of Canada's past. She lived in a couple places in NWT, but where she lived is now in Nunavut. In Nunavut at that time it would be hard to live, because of the constant lack of heat, food and sometimes even shelter. But still even in these extreme conditions the Inuit people experimented with art. Using new art tools constantly brought in by the white men. Some greedy people took advantage of the artists, offering them little money for beautiful art. But outside of Canada there was many different styles of art. In Kenojuak's early childhood there was some of the living members of the Group of Seven and there were the Impressionists. Kenojuak's and their art is very, very beautiful and it influenced many people.

Kenojuak does two types of art, sculptures and paintings. She is the most famous for her paintings. She has over 160 commercial paintings and only five or six commercial sculptures. Kenojuak experimented a lot with paintings. Using many dark colors and many shades, such as red, dark orange (occasionally), blue and the obvious black, gray and white. Her two art types were sculptures and paintings.

Kenojuak did art of one thing, animals. When she first started off she had animals in her art such as foxes, wolves, walruses, seals, bears and sometimes (very rarely) birds. But, as she got more famous, she started to do beautiful art of birds, any type of birds that she could see in the communities she lived in she would paint. But she mainly did paintings of owls. Her art of animals is beautiful.

Kenojuak's art is very beautiful. Kenojuak's art does not look very realistic but it still looks sweet. Her paintings and sculptures look like birds and animals, but not like other artists' versions of animals. Kenojuak's animals look more spiritual because they are all bunched together and half formed. When Kenojuak paints she very, very rarely has a landscape. The background is usually just white. I think Kenojuak's art is the most beautiful Inuit art.

Kenojuak's Accomplishments

Kenojuak has a few big accomplishments. Kenojuak has one very, very well known piece of art. Its name is "The Enchanted Owl". Kenojuak painted The "Enchanted Owl" in 1960 and it measures 49.5 x 66 cm. But when she printed out a special edition it came out 66 cm x 66 cm. It became very famous because it is very strange. It is a beautiful picture, but it to me and the publisher of the book I took notes from was a bird sitting, even though it was meant to look like it was a soaring bird with all its feathers spread wide apart. The other reason it caught the art worlds eye is because it wasn't the same style of other Inuit artists. Her art was not only beautiful but it was different. The owl was a painting of a perfect owl posing in a perfect way. From my internet source I learned that it was an owl that had visited Kenojuak in her dreams, soaring high above the clouds . She pained it when she was just starting off, and it sure did get her started off it sold more printed copies than any of her paintings. The special edition of "The Enchanted Owl" is owned by a man named M.F. Fehley.

The second piece of Kenojuak's art I am going to talk about is "The Woman Who Lives in the Sun". Kenojuak also made this painting in 1960. The size is 49.5 x 66 cm. It is actually not very famous. I think with a little tampering it could be a cool skateboard logo so that is why I chose it. But, to Kenojuak that picture is painting of a legend. I do not know the legend, but I do know the Inuit people think a woman lives in the sun. The picture looks like a sun with a smiley face on it. It actually isn't a very petty piece of art and I would not mark it very well but it was painted when she was experimenting with new paint brushes and when she was still kind of learning how to do good art. She painted this painting before "The Enchanted Owl". All of her paintings before she painted "The Enchanted Owl" were simple forms. "The Woman who Lives in the Sun" is owned by the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative. I think her art is a cool accomplishment.


I did my project on an Inuit artist named Kenojuak. Kenojuak's art is very unique because her art is so simple yet, so complex. It is simple because it has a bold outline and easier forms to draw, but the thing that makes it complex, is that behind every drawing, painting or sculpture there is a story of her life and her people's life waiting to be found out.

The thing about Kenojuak that is different from other artists from around the world, is that Kenojuak paints of walrus spirits, not cafes, palm trees and portraits. Kenojuak made two contributions to the world, she taught other people about her culture and her second contribution is, by teaching people about her culture, her culture is more alive in other peoples' lives and in hers. I really liked doing a project on Kenojuak and I conclude that she was and is a cool artist.

Updated June 16/2002
C. Pearl-Hodgins