Germaine Arnaktauyok

Until the mid 1960s, she lived with her family in a camp inland from the town where seals and caribou were plentiful for hunting. Therese Nattok and Isidore Iytok, the mother and father of Germaine Arnaktauyok, are talented carvers that contributed to the Inuit style of art. Arnaktauyok was the third of eight children. She was the oldest daughter in the family. In Chesterfield Inlet, she attended a Catholic school when she was nine years old. She stayed here for seven years, only to return to her family each summer, which became lonesome for her in the school season. A nun, who was skilled at painting, recognized her talent and provided lessons for her. Arnaktauyok’s painting skills developed and her first artwork was sold at the age of eleven. Arnaktauyok continued her schooling at a school in Churchill, Manitoba, where she was further encouraged to pursue the art field by George Swinton. In 1967, she took art courses on the weekends in Winnipeg, and a year later she attended the Fine Arts program at the University of Manitoba School of Art. Arnaktauyok then moved to Ottawa to study at the Pembroke Campus of Algonquin College for commercial art in 1969. This particular field was not what she wanted to pursue; however, she did gain experience for creating illustrations in books at the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. In the same year, she moved to Iqaluit, then called Frobisher Bay, to work for the Frobisher Bay Arts and Crafts Centre, which lasted five years. While working in Iqaluit, Algonquin College in Pembroke offered her a year-long course in the crafts field involving historical and cultural techniques of crafting.

After her education was completed for the time being, Arnaktauyok moved to Yellowknife to work for the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT); this was from 1971 to 1976. She was given many commissioned projects for the Department of Education, GNWT.

Her artwork is held in a variety of museums, including the University of Michigan Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the National Gallery of Canada, the British Museum,the McMaster Museum of Art, and the Peabody Essex Museum.

In February, 2021 she received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts for her exceptional career and remarkable contribution to the visual and media arts and fine crafts.

“Germaine Arnaktauyok has charted her own course and created her own unique visual language, and her lifelong interest in her own unique Inuit culture has been an inspiration to many younger artists,” stated Darlene Coward Wight, curator of Inuit art at The Winnipeg Art Gallery.