Kinngait’s Ningiukulu Teevee is already an accomplished artist, having had her work displayed in over 40 exhibitions and 10 solo shows around the world.

She could soon add another impressive achievement to her resume – and pad her bank account in the process.

On May 19, the Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq and the Inuit Art Foundation (IAF) revealed Teevee as the lone Nunavummiut among five finalists for the biennial Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award (KAMA), which celebrates Inuit artists.

The winner of the award – and the accompanying $20,000 prize – will be unveiled on September 22. In the meantime, the shortlisted artists’ work is being showcased in a special exhibit in the gallery, which houses the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world.

“It is kind of mind-blowing to know that something I made is being seen by many, and exciting to know that it’s there in Winnipeg, where Canada’s largest Inuit art collection is found,” Teevee said.

The theme of this year’s shortlist exhibition is Anaanatta Unikkaangit, which translates to Our Mother’s Stories. It was selected by curator Marie-Anne Redhead.

“Stories give you a sense of who you are,” Redhead said. “Stories teach you a lot about life. They teach you about customs and traditions and practices – even subsistence practices. All of that is in the stories you’re told, that you inherit growing up.”

Teevee’s work fits right into this year’s theme.

Her art is inspired by the stories she has heard and the place she calls home, and she aims to “preserve and document” those things in each piece, admitting that she has felt a disconnect from her own culture in the past.

“My art is inspired by stories I have heard or read about and everyday life,” she said. “It’s important to help people outside the North understand Inuit culture. That is the goal.”

“At one point in my life I felt lost. I realized I looked and sounded like an Inuk, but I didn’t feel whole. I had no hunting or sewing skills, I wouldn’t last out there [on the land] on my own.

“I needed to learn as much as I could about my culture to take back what I missed out on: a sense of identity and pride.”

Teevee has some waiting to do before she learns if she won this year’s award, and it is certainly a competitive field.

The shortlist is rounded out by Newfoundland’s Billy Gauthier, Maureen Gruben of the Northwest Territories, Gayle Uyagaqi Kabloona from Ontario, and Alberta’s Kablusiak – all “very prominent artists,” according to Redhead.

“These shortlisted artists do traditional Inuit art in really interesting, contemporary ways,” the curator said. “There’s something so brilliant about all of them.”

Teevee, who already pocketed $5,000 for being shortlisted, admits winning the grand prize would alleviate some financial pressure. In fact, she has already given some thought to how she would spend her winnings.

“Winning the KAMA would be awesome,” she said. “It would take off the financial strain a little bit.”

“We need a new outboard motor too,” she added. “Sustenance is our way of life so we need to be out there on the land and sea. That would be so awesome.”

The winner of the 2023 KAMA will also receive a solo exhibition at the gallery in two years’ time, following a year-long residency. This year’s award ceremony will coincide with the launch of a solo show from Coral Harbour’s Tarralik Duffy, who won the top prize in 2021.

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