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Normee Ekoomiak (–2009)

Author of Arctic Memories

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Ekoomiak is an Inuk, born and raised in Northern Quebec. A talented painter and creator of wall hangings of felt applique and woolen embroidery, the artist here gives readers of any age glimpses into the Inuit culture that formed his childhood and youth. Each painting or wall hanging, as reproduced in a full or half page spread, depicts an aspect of everyday Inuit life or illustrates a part of the artist's religious beliefs. The text consists of extended captions that may be, depending on the picture, a simple description of an everyday activity, a truncated version of a myth, or a statement of Ekoomiak's convictions. All are presented in English text and the Inukitut text used by his people. A closing section (in English only) discusses the Inuit--their language and their art--and offers an autobiographical note. This portrait of a nearly extinct way of life is intensely personal, especially when the artist expresses his beliefs; it injects genuine feeling into the narrative. Shown are a scene in an iglu, ice fishing, Inuit games, a panoramic vision of the Arctic spring and, movingly, a salute to the centennial celebration of the Statue of Liberty. The reproductions are of high quality on smooth paper, with the colors crisply replicated. The art is faithful to its folk origins, but glows with the sophistication of talent. The result is a work of integrity, an authentic representation of a culture which now mostly exists, as Ekoomiak says, in memory. --Christine Behrmann, New York Public Library Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Normee Ekoomiak, one of Canada’s most prolific Inuit artists, died on Monday in Ottawa at the age of 61. Ekoomiak was a painter and tapestry-maker. One of his works — a tapestry depicting a family hunting — is currently on display at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. But Ekoomiak was best known for his children’s book Arctic Memories, which describes life in the Arctic through vivid paintings. Ekoomiak had been homeless for two decades and died in the hospice wing of the Ottawa Mission shelter, where he’d been living for the past eight years.
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