Inuit Dolls depicting Inuit Couple, c. 1960 by Annie Niviaxie (1930-1989)
Inuit Dolls depicting Inuit Couple holding Oil Lamp and Bowl, 1960 by Annie Niviaxie (1930-1989) Inukjuak, Arctic Quebec, Canada carved soapstone faces, lamp, and bowl, wool fabric, wool, cotton fabric, embroidery thread, coiled grass basket mat
“Being a woman and unlearned in the ways of the hunt, I cannot carve the animals as men can. This does not restrict me, however, as the human figure is always in motion, providing unlimited subject for sculpture.” - Annie Niviaxie in Art/Inuit/Art: The Rothman’s Permanent Collection of Eskimo Sculpture, 1975
Born near Inukjuak in 1930, Annie Niviaxie moved to Kuujjuarapik upon her marriage to Josephie Niviaxie. Niviaxie learned to carve by watching others “long ago” (Craig: 1991). Early on, she carved at her leisure, experimenting with her work. Financial hardship, however, increasingly placed demands upon her to carve more saleable works to help support her family.
A multi-disciplinary artist known for her work as a sculptor, doll maker, and basket maker, Niviaxie was also a proficient seamstress and created many wall hangings during her lifetime. Having learned to sew out of necessity when her mother could no longer manage the household’s sewing duties, Niviaxie was tasked with caring for the family’s garments. Applying these skills to her work in tapestry, she created several complex sealskin and felt pieces in the 1970s and 1980s, and also collaborated on a series of sewing projects with her contemporaries, Mina Napartuk and Malaya Crow.
Well respected as one of the most recognizable female artists out of Kuujjuaraapik, Niviaxie’s works have been included in numerous exhibitions worldwide. Her work is held in important collections of Inuit art such as those at the Glenbow Museum, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, to name a few.
Considered as being at the height of her creativity in her mid-30s, Niviaxie’s work from the 1960s is particularly accomplished. Many of these pieces incorporate multiple figures, which are depicted in well balanced but complex poses. Her work from this period is also characterized by feminine, rounded contours and bulky proportions which lend themselves well to the overall subject matter. Niviaxie’s work became increasingly more stylized in later years, mainly featuring single traditional figures.