Since April 27, The WAG-Qaumajuq has been featuring an exhibit called Omalluq: Pictures from My Life.

This exhibit showcases the drawings of Inuit sculptor and artist Omalluq Oshutsiaq (1948-2014). These drawings were created towards the end of Oshutsiaq’s life and are notable for their highly detailed depictions of everyday life on the southern tip of Baffin Island in Nunavut. Additionally, Oshutsiaq uniquely portrays innovative depictions of Inuit stories and myths.

These drawings offer a remarkable and beautiful insight into the lives and stories of the Inuit. Omalluq Oshutsiaq spent the majority of her career working as a stone carver. Kinngait (Cape Dorset) had developed a reputation as a centre of Inuit carving, and Omalluq joined this tradition in the 1970s. By the mid-1980s, she had gained international recognition, exhibiting her work worldwide and creating a name for herself on the global stage.

Tragically, in the late 2000s, Omalluq suffered an injury to one of her hands when it got caught in an electrical grinder. This event ended her carving career, and it was only towards the end of her life that she turned to drawing.

Omalluq: Pictures from My Life consists of 19 drawings. The art was discovered in Toronto by WAG-Qaumajuq curator of Inuit art, Darlene Coward Wight. She explains, “I was visiting Dorset Fine Arts [in Toronto] and I was shown a drawing by Omalluq and I thought, ‘Wow, this is amazing,’ and they said, ‘Well, we actually have a few more here. Would you like to see them?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely!’ So, in all, there were 19 drawings that they had, and she was not really known for drawing, so I said, ‘Okay, I want to take these.’ So I bought them, and they came to Winnipeg, and we acquired them.”

The detail and colour in Omalluq’s drawings are so intense that they create a scene where something new can be discovered each time the viewer looks at the art. “I’m still seeing things in the drawings. I have seen a lot of prints and drawings over the years, but these are different. The style is particularly meticulous, her colouring is quite beautiful, and her compositions are really quite engaging when you look carefully at them,” says Coward Wight.

fgnDrying caribou meat and fish by Omalluq Oshutsiaq. Coutesy of the WAG-Qaumajuq

The drawings touch on themes such as scenes of everyday life and the tasks required to live in such a remote and harsh climate, close personal relationships with both family and community, and Inuit stories and legends. All the drawings have a story to tell the viewer.

An example of how Omalluq depicts Inuit legends can be seen in the piece titled Shaman’s Transformation. The drawing depicts a shaman transforming and taking on the powers and appearance of their helping spirit. As Coward Wight describes the piece, “I have seen this transformation many times in other art, but I had never seen anything like what Omalluq had done. She is overlaying the figure of the female shaman with a jigsaw puzzle that is in the shape of a bear—her helping spirit. It was just such a unique way of depicting that very seminal part of Inuit shamanism.”

The exhibit is being very well received by patrons. “I think people are really reacting to these—the humanity in them, the many details of life, of a woman and mother and child in some cases. You learn a lot by looking at these drawings. It’s revelatory and I think people are reacting to that.”

Omalluq: Pictures from My Life is on at the WAG-Qaumajuq until March 30, 2025. For more details, visit the WAG-Qaumajuq's website.