FOR INUIT CULTURE,
SHE WAS AN ICONIC
LIGHT OF HAPPINESS
AND A DANCING
By: Sandra Martin
THE ENCHANTED OWL
• Kenojuak Ashevak drew her famous sketch “The
Enchanted Owl” in 1960.
• Sold more than $50,000 in 2007.
• Significant reason why John Feeney made a
documentary on her life.
• Focuses on her living condition and talent.
• For instance, it states “Later, she makes a drawing in the
flickering light of an oil lamp, drawing with an uncanny
concentration, confidence and fluidity, almost as though she
has projected her imagination like a shadow onto the paper
and is merely tracing the image with her pencil. There is no
hesitation, no second-guessing, no erasing.”
• By the end of the documentary, The Return of the Sun was
another famous painting of Ashevak.
• From the documentary and the painting, she made enough
money that her husband was capable of affording a canoe.
• She was born on October 3rd, 1927, in an igloo in
• Unfortunately, her father, Ushuakjuk, was murdered by
other members of the camp. Reason for his death is
• Ashevak begin to live with her grandmother who
taught her traditional crafts such as sewing sealskin
clothes with caribou sinew.
• For family purposes and to trade for goods with the
Hudson's Bay Company.
• At the age of 19, her mother and stepfather arranged a
union for her with hunter Johnniebo Ashevak. After two
year they got married.
• This was the same year, 1948, when federal government
began issuing family allowance benefits to Inuit and
keeping track of them by number, instead of name.
• Ashevak's number was E7-1035.
• In 1951, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. She went
to Quebec City hospital for treatment.
• In the process, her children died while waiting for her
• In 1955, became a part of Alma Houston's crafts studio
and began making sealskin appliques on handbags.
• Rabbit Eating Seaweed, a design that Houston found it
amazing. Therefore, he encouraged Ashevak to carve.
• It was the only work by a women included in the 1959
• She spent her last few years living in her own home in
• By this time, she is three times widowed and had
numerous biological and adopted children
• Including the artist Arnaqu Ashevak, who died in 2009,
her son Adamie, her daughter, travelling companion
and translator Silaqqie, and a multigenerational
• She died in her sleep in her hometown as she wanted.
• She was among the original inductees into the Order of
Canada in 1967.
• She was awarded a Governor-General's Award in
Visual and Media Arts in 2008.
• She also created an owl design for a stained glass
window in a chapel at Appleby College in Ontario in
• She never went to school, she never studied art, she
never learned English.
• 1.) Why do you think the Canadian government would
identify First Nations by numbers, instead of names?
• 2.) As we know, Kenojuak never went to school, never
learned art, and never spoke English. Therefore, what
do you think is the significant factor behind her talent
for drawing and success?