Germaine Arnaktauyok was born near Igloolik ( on
the Northwest Coast of Baffin Island in what is now part of Nunavut) in 1946 to Isidore Iytok and Therese Natteq
(there are sculptures by her mother in the Winnipeg Art Gallery collection). She remembers her early years on the
land with her parents and seven siblings as a happy time, and recalls drawing on gum wrappers and any bits of paper
she could find.
At the age of nine, she was sent to a residential boarding school in Chesterfield Inlet, Northwest
Territories, run by the Roman Catholic Church. This was a lonely and difficult time, as she was only able to see
her family during summer holidays. There she met a nun who was a talented painter. She and three other girls were
able to spend Saturday mornings painting, listening to music, and eating candies—welcome periods of freedom from
life at the school.
By the time she sold her first painting at the
age of 11, art was an integral part of her life. While at high school in Churchill, Manitoba, she met George Swinton
who encouraged her to attend the University of Manitoba School of Art, which she did from 1969-1970. After a year
at Algonquin College in Ottawa, she decided that commercial design held little interest for her. Her first commissions
for book illustration came at that time.
She moved to Iqaluit for five years, and then to
Yellowknife, where she continued to support herself with book illustrations. While in Yellowknife, Arnaktauyok
married and gave birth to a daughter. She followed her husband to British Columbia in 1980, where she lived for
ten years, creating little art. When her marriage ended, she moved back to Yellowknife in 1990 and began to devote
herself to artmaking in a serious way. She studied printmaking in Iqaluit and Montreal in 1992, and has created
a number of etchings in recent years. This technique translates well to Arnaktauyok’s very intricate, linear style
of drawing. She finds etching techniques exciting because "the acid has a personality of its own, and things
sometimes come out slightly different from what you expected."
Germaine's honors include a seven-month solo exhibition at the Winnipeg Art
Gallery (1998) and most recently, the selection by the Royal Canadian Mint of two of her designs for use on Canadian
coins. This includes her image "Drummer" as the reverse design for the 1999 Cdn$2 coin celebrating the
creation of the Territory of Nunavut. Germaine second coin design portrays a mother and child and appears on the
$200 22-karat gold coin issued in 2000. This coin is the fourth and final coin in the popular Native Cultures and
The design of the 1999 $2 coin was based upon this silk screen print produced by Germaine in 1996.
The image of the original design was reversed, as with a negative, and Germaine was commissioned to make changes
to allow for an improved image in metallic format. The design was originally intended for use on a collector's
edition silver dollar, however, the importance of the event being commemorated saw the change to a circulating
$2 format. The coin replaces the "polar bear" design for all circulating $2 coins dated 1999 and is also
available in a collector's edition in base metal and both sterling silver and gold versions.
Connection - Inuit Etchings - Germaine Arnaktauyok
Inuit Cultural Perspectives