Victoria Mamnguqsualuk (1930–2016) and Miriam Marealik Qiyuk (1933–2016)
Born just three years apart, the passing last year of sisters Victoria Mamnguqsualuk and Miriam Marealik Qiyuk has left an indelible mark. These talented, powerful women were the daughters of Jessie Oonark, OC, RCA (1906–1985), a pioneer in graphic and textile production and a leader in her community of Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake), NU. Although Mamnguqsualuk and Qiyuk spent their childhoods on the land in the Back River area, northwest of Qamani’tuaq, in 1958, along with their siblings and mother, they transitioned to settlement life. Both began making artwork shortly thereafter, greatly inspired by the work of their mother. Through stiches on wall hangings and marks on paper, Mamnguqsualuk developed a distinct and unique style, with playful and energetic characters rendered with expressive lines and intricate detail. Her delicately stitched figures tell traditional stories and depict subjects drawn from Inuit legends, in particular the shaman Kiviuq. Mamnguqsualuk was dedicated to the evolution of her artistic practice, actively learning new styles or techniques and changing her work. In 1997, she graduated from a drawing and printmaking program at the Nunavut Arctic College, building on her already extensive talents as an artist. Qiyuk is known equally for her whimsical wall hangings and stylized carvings. After developing an allergy to wool, the artist turned to carving in her later years, quickly becoming one of the most accomplished Inuit women carvers. Her signature representations of birds, in both wool and stone, are imbued with both playfulness and calm, with the feathered creatures often shown huddled together on cresting waves. Qiyuk’s affinity for birds, understood as symbols of light, fecundity and rebirth, was matched only by her interest in themes of movement and migration. Both Mamnguqsualuk and Qiyuk leave behind rich artistic legacies that continue to reveal their unique and individual narratives.
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