Artworks and Artists
Pitseolak Ashoona
Born in Nottingham Island, Nunavut, c. 1904
Died in Cape Dorset, Nunavut, 28 May 1983

Pitseolak Ashoona

In Inuktitut, the language of Inuit, "pitseolak" means sea pigeon, and the artist liked to say, "When I see pitseolaks over the sea, I say, 'There go those lovely birds - that's me flying.'" These words are an eloquent testimony to the vivaciousness and zest that marked the life and work of this artist. She once said, “I know I have had a an unusual life, being born in a skin tent and living to hear on the radio that two men have landed on the moon.”

After her husband’s death at Nettilling Lake, in the interior of Baffin Island, Pitseolak and her six children (she bore seventeen in all) made a journey of two hundred kilometres to Cape Dorset. Determined to provide for her family herself, she earned a meagre living from her sewing, and was aided by family members; in fact, it was with the encouragement of her cousin Kiakshuk that she first ventured to do some drawings for the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative’s print studio, founded in the early 60s. This marked the beginning of a productive career that extended over the next 25 years. Pitseolak left thousands of drawings, including more than 200 that have been made into prints.