Agnes Nanogak (1925 - 2001)
"Two Decoys" 1985
13" x 11"
Agnes Nanogak was born on November 12th, 1925 in an encampment on Baillie Island northwest of Paulatuk, Northwest Territories. Born and raised in the Western Arctic Agnes's parents, and her early life on the land, greatly influenced her work. Her father Natkutsiak [Billy Banksland] from Nome, Alaska was well known for his association with explorer Viljáhimir Stefánsson. He worked on whaling boats and sailed with Stefánsson, who was attempting to find the Northwest Passage from the west, acting as his guide. Her mother, Topsy Ekiona, grew up in the Mackenzie Delta region, near Tuktoyaktuk. The family moved to the present site of Holman on Victoria Island in 1934, when she was nine years old.
Nanogak's father stimulated her interest in drawing. She became intrigued by both her father's work and later by the drawings and prints that were beginning to be produced in the community. Encouraged by Father Henri Tardy, an oblate missionary, she began to draw using graphite on paper in the early 1960's. She introduced felt-tip pen, and the resulting use of vibrant colour, into the drawings when they became available in 1970. In 1967 she started to participate in the newly founded printmaking program and since that time 159 prints have been translated from her drawings.
She is noted for her skill as a storyteller, artist and teacher. Deeply committed to helping people remember the stories passed in an oral tradition, her narrative drawings and prints, based on stories and drum dance songs from her youth, relay her continuing interest in traditional myth and shamanism. In 1972 she created illustrations for a book of legends called 'Tales from the Igloo' and in 1986 both narrated and illustrated the second publication 'More Tales from the Igloo'. She also participated in an important youth initiative teaching traditional songs at the Holman community centre. These drum dances and songs continue to be performed today, in conjunction with contemporary music, during weekly community hall gatherings and larger festivals.
Agnes Nanogak died on May 5, 2001.