“It wasn’t like it is now. We were learning, but not in school; from our parents. We didn’t realize that we were learning until later. There were never many papers to draw or practice writing on, but whenever there was any to spare, we would try to draw.”*
Malaya Akulukjuk was a talented, versitile and prolific Pangnirtung artist. She was an admired and respected artist in the community. Malaya lived a traditonal life on the land before settling in Pangnirtung in 1962. She first learned to carve in 1962 and created sculptures in stone, antler and whalebone. However, Malaya is better known for her drawings which were often used as designs on tapestries and prints. Prints of her drawings were first made in 1975, and Malaya participated in many of the annual collections until her death in 1995. The first tapestries woven in the Pangnirtung Tapestry Studio in 1971 were based on her drawing designs.
Of the many subjects she depicted in her drawings, she enjoyed using her imagination and memories of traditonal stories she had heard to create spirit figures. She also liked to depict camp scenes, animals and birds.
Malaya was married at the age of twenty and was the mother of thirteen children. Her late husband, Nutaralaq Akulukjuk, was a sculptor. Five of her sons, Jeetaloo, Geeshee, Juelee, Enukee and Moar are also artists in Pangnirtung. Her daughter, May Lonsdale, is a graphic artist.
*Malaya Akulukjuk, “Pangnirtung Print Retrospective: 1973-1986”, page 17
Excerpt courtesy Inuit Art Section, INAC, 1997.
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