This Transformation by Ning Ashoona speaks for her abilities as a talented creative carver to give new forms to the traditional Inuit Sea Goddess, the Sedna, in this intriguing transformation work.
Ning Ashoona is a Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU based artist who was raised on the land in Saturituk, on the southern coast of Baffin Island. She fondly recalls fishing as a child, and that carving and drawing were a practice in daily life, work made for the co-op to support supplies for life on the land.
Ning lived her younger years with her grandparents (Qaqaq and Mayoreak ) in Saturituk, (Mayoreak Ashoona’s birthplace) on the southern coast of Baffin Island. Living in this isolated outpost camp instilled in Ning a deep attachment to the land. All Qaqaq and Mayoreak’s children learned how to make art, either graphic art or sculptures from their parents. Ning’s three uncles – Oqitu (Ohito) Ashoona, Ottokie Ashoona and Sapa Ashoona and her aunt Siassie (Ashoona) Keanelly were like siblings to Ning growing up. Mayoreak and Qaqaq’s children are all well known artists.
Both of Ning’s grandparents were recognized master carvers whose art celebrated traditional Inuit culture. Her grandfather Qaqaq used only hand tools and took great care with the details. Mayoreak is a strong figure in Ning’s life and set the example of women making art by carving. Ning learned many skills by watching her grandmother carve. She would help Mayoreak carve mermaids and loons.
Ashoona’s favourite subject was the loon, observing them on the water and on land. It was upon her move to Kinngait where she began to be more deeply influenced by the female carvers around her, including her grandmother.
Carving for most of her life, Ashoona is one of only a few full-time female carvers, yet is very prolific and has a distinctive style. Using both hand and power tools Ashoona bridges tradition and innovation in her approach and technique. Inspired by Arctic wildlife and her childhood on the land, much of Ashoona’s work depicts animals at play. The animals dance and glide, giving an impression of movement, and their glossy coats hint at their kinship with water. The smooth soapstone Ashoona uses, in a variety of colours from ink black to green and gray, are polished to a high lustre and give the appearance of the animals and birds just having emerged from the water.
She has now been a full time carver for over 20 years with a family of her own to support. The power tools help to increase her productivity and she uses the hand tools for intricate delicate work. She is inspired by the beauty of Arctic animals and uses her creativity to envision new forms for her favourite subjects. Her slender and delicate loons exhibit the fragility of life. The fluid Mermaids and Sedna’s with their elegant fins are elusive in the Arctic waters.
Ashoona’s work has been exhibiting in Canada and abroad at institutions such as the Albers Gallery of Inuit Art, San Francisco, U.S., Feheley Fine Arts, Toronto, ON and the Inuit Gallery of Vancouver. She has appeared in the Inuit Art Quarterly.
This sleak Sedna Transformation by Ning Ashoona is a wonderful example of her great talent.