For our 30th anniversary issue, the IAQ asked 15 leading figures in Inuit art to nominate an early-career artist to watch. In turn, those artists selected a senior talent who has inspired them. The result is “30 Artists to Know”, an expansive portfolio exploring the intergenerational, familial and community-based bonds that are made visible through art.
Sanikiluaq, NU / Ottawa, ON
At age 24, Kelly Fraser is the right age to be considered an emerging artist, yet she has been perfecting her music, actively recording and performing for over a decade. Born in Tikirarjuaq (Whale Cove), NU, she grew up in Sanikiluaq, where, inspired by a music video, she became determined to play the guitar at age 11 and has ever since. She formed her first band at age 15. Kelly’s music has reached far and wide, in the North and beyond, through her adept use of social media such as SoundCloud and YouTube.
First capturing attention for her savvy interpretations of songs such as Rihanna’s “Diamonds” into Inuktut, Kelly’s first album, Isuma (Think), was released in 2014, followed by Sedna/Nuliajuk early in 2017. The artist records and performs in both English and Inuktut and will be leading workshops across Nunavut to encourage others to explore songwriting in regional Inuktut dialects. Immensely talented and hard working, Fraser performs regularly across the country with her band the Easy Four and will travel to participate in the Qooqqut Festival in Nuuk, Greenland, in late 2017. She is already a force to be reckoned with at this early stage of what promises to be a spectacular career. – Christine Lalonde
I have been listening to Charlie Adams’ music since birth; my father was always playing his music. I remember learning to sing his song “Quviasupunga” (I’m Happy) when I was just three years old. It was my father’s favourite song, and, after he passed away, I translated it from Inuktut into English, so my family could understand it. I included a recording of “Quviasupunga” in both languages on my first album Isuma (2014).
When I was a child, I saw Charlie perform. I was part of a dance group that travelled to Inukjuak to perform at a festival in 2001. I watched him perform, and he was amazing! I even got to meet him afterwards, and I still have a picture of him and me. As I grew up, I was deeply immersed in his music and was moved by the sincere and humble stories he told in his songs. He was a wonderful storyteller, and I have so much respect for him. Although he died in poverty in Montreal, I see him as a man with many riches. He wasn’t able to get the help that he needed, but he helped me and many other people. It broke my heart when I found out that he had passed away, because he inspired me to be the Inuit singer that I am today. – Kelly Fraser
Lalonde is Curator of Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Canada. In 2014, Lalonde joined the IAF to relaunch the Quarterly as Editor after which she served as Chair of the Editorial Advisory Council. She has written extensively and diversely for the magazine, starting with her first piece “How Can We Understand Inuit Art?” (10.3, Fall 1995).
These profiles appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly.
30 Artists to Know Feature