Germaine Arnaktauyok is an Inuit artist and illustrator, best known for her prints and etchings depicting Inuit myths and traditional ways of life. In 1999, she designed the special edition two-dollar coin commemorating the founding of the territory of Nunavut. She is the co-author, with Gyu Oh, of My Name Is Arnaktauyok: The Life and Art of Germaine Arnaktauyok. She lives in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.
Illustrated by Germaine Arnaktauyok:
My Name is Arnaktauyok: The Life and Art of Germaine Arnaktauyok
Inuit Spirit: A Colouring Book by Germaine Arnaktauyok
What is your favourite collaboration you’ve done?
I think it’s Takannaaluk because the pictures are connected to each other. It took me a little less than two years—it was all ink. I have always wanted to do etching on that one but I haven’t. Takannaaluk means “something beneath the ocean.”
What are you working on now?
I’m not doing any painting, drawing, or printmaking because I’m sewing. I like to sew with beads. It’s my hobby. I’m making little broaches with semi-precious stones. But I don’t have anything to do with clothing. I hate clothing!
I’ve been working on the Sun and Moon, two brothers, for about a year now, I haven’t worked on it for quite a while now but it’s getting there.
What do you like to read?
I read every day; I have lots of books. Actually, I read mostly non-fiction. I like to learn. I like to find out about certain pictures.
It’s not all Canadian books. I also read a lot of American books. Right now, I’m reading Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. It’s about the early 1900s when there were a lot of killings on Indigenous reservations in Oklahoma. They found oil, and the people who lived there got royalties, but white people who also lived in the area were killing them off to get their money. I never knew that. It’s very, very interesting.
I have books about when settlers first met Inuit in Nunavut. I like to read the old books too, starting around 1400 when explorers and whalers started coming into Nunavut.
Tell us about some of the interesting places your illustrations have ended up.
I know my artwork is in Canada House in England. I was invited to go there, but my invitation card was two weeks late.
I think there’s a piece in France. There’s stuff here and there; I don’t know where a lot of things are, but there are pieces in Canada, Europe, and the United States.
I remember when I lived in Iqaluit, this guy called me and he said they were scouting high-end houses in Toronto for a movie. The producer saw my print hanging on the wall, and they called me to see if they could use it and leave it on the wall. In the movie, Mean Girls, the teenager lived in Africa. The Inuit combs in my piece are very similar to African combs, and I think that’s why they wanted to leave it on the wall as a prop. At first, I refused because the movie wasn’t called “Mean Girls.” It had a nasty name, and I said, “Why do you have that name if it’s about teenagers?”
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