Helen Kalvak (1901 – 1984)

Helen Kalvak

Helen Kalvak was a graphic artist who chronicled the traditional lives of the Copper Inuit in her drawings. Born at Tahiryuak Lake, Victoria Island, she was raised in the Prince Albert Sound area, married, and lived a traditional Inuit lifestyle until the sudden death of her husband in 1960. Kalvak then moved to Ulukhaktok (formerly Holman), and the following year, at the age of 60, helped establish the Holman Eskimo Co-operative and began to create her distinctive works of art. A prolific artist, she produced more than 3,000 drawings, many made into prints and sold internationally. Decorated with traditional beautifying facial tattoos, Kalvak was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1975 and made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1978. Kalvak's drawing, The Dance, was made into a Canada Post stamp in 1981.  

“Kalvak’s childhood training as a shaman informed the artwork she made in her old age... More than most Inuit graphics, her work depicts women in the roles of healer, sorcerer, and transformational figure.” (Janet Catherine Berlo)

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