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Interview with an Artist-in-Residence: Niap

Niap is an Inuk from Kuujjuaq, Nunavik (the Inuit homeland of northern Québec) and is a multi-disciplinary artist. In this interview she tells us more about her art, her experience as an Artist-in-Residence aboard Adventure Canada expeditions, and what she enjoys about sharing her culture.
Niap cultural presentation black and white

Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and the art you make?

My name is Niap and I am from Kuujjuaq, Nunavik (Québec). I’ve been living in Montreal for the last ten years or so and about six years ago I decided to follow my childhood dreams and go to art school. I remember that in the fourth grade, my teacher asked my classmates and I to draw pictures of ourselves in the future. My dream was to be an artist and travel the world. I decided to follow my instincts and try it out, and the response has been wildly overwhelming.

I’m a multi-disciplinary artist. I do carvings, drawings, watercolours, textiles. I work with sound, as well—I like to include soundscapes with my paintings and carvings. What I try to do is incorporate traditional Inuit knowledge into modern artwork.

Composition 2020 watercolour 48.3 x 75.6 cm Niap

© Niap

Composition (2020), watercolour, 48.3 x 75.6 cm.

What is it like for you to travel with Adventure Canada?

I first started with Adventure Canada a few years ago, when they invited me onboard as an Artist-in-Residence. That was my first residency, and it was a beautiful experience. It was such a great opportunity to be able to meet people from all over the world and share my art and what I’m passionate about.

I got to meet amazing people who I still keep in touch with to this day. A woman from Vancouver who I travelled with recently came to one of my shows. I’ve kept in touch with people from the United States and other places, too. I’ve found that it’s a really good opportunity for creativity and for networking.

Plus, it’s so beautiful to have the chance, as an artist, to see places that are really hard to get to. Every day when we’re on the ship, or going on excursions in the Zodiacs, just being on the sea with people and seeing their excitement—it’s so inspiring!

Uncategory 2 Land 2019 print and acrylic on paper 36x24 inches Niap

© Niap

Uncategory 2 Land (2019), print and acrylic on paper, 36 x 24 in.

How do you like to interact with guests on an expedition?

When I’m onboard, I’m talking and interacting with people all the time. We eat dinner together and enjoy the lounge times. I join guests on their treks and their Zodiac trips.

As an Artist-in-Residence, I also have the opportunity to do presentations to share my work. It can be intimidating, but people are so open and ask lots of questions. Many of them are admirers of Inuit art, and, on a personal note, it’s been really amazing to hear their responses to my work. I can also give watercolour workshops, which are really fun.

When I’m travelling with Adventure Canada, I’m also there to share Inuit culture. I’m an open book and love answering questions. I find an expedition is a really good place to create communication and build bridges between worlds that hardly ever cross.

My medium is art, but my message is culture. My main desire is to promote Inuit culture and all of its richness. I try to look for allies and educate people. I’m grateful to have the chance to talk to people about modern-day issues and share traditional knowledge, for them to be able to learn about it through my art.

When I was young, I was very ashamed of it, but when I turned eighteen, I met Inuit who had a pride I didn’t understand. The more they taught me, the more I learned from them, the more pride I had in my culture and in myself. It now excites me so much I want to share it with everyone. I’ll talk about it with anybody—taxi drivers, people sitting beside me on the plane. I usually lose my voice while I’m on expedition because I’m so excited about talking to everyone!

There is beauty in our lines 2019 thread and ink on paper 22 x 15.25 inches Niap

© Niap

There is beauty in our lines (2019), thread and ink on paper, 22 x 15 1/4 in.

Where are some of your favourite places to travel in the Arctic?

I honestly don’t have a favourite place. I really love all of it—anywhere! On these trips, you get the opportunity to see landscapes you wouldn’t normally have the chance to see, visit places most people don’t ever get to go.

Sometimes some of the expedition’s plans have to change because of the weather or ice. But even if they do, no matter where we go, it’s always somewhere amazing. The fresh air, the beautiful views, the ice. Plus, you’re surrounded by people who are inspired by the North.

All the expedition team members I’ve worked with on Adventure Canada trips are very knowledgeable, very interesting people to talk with. Adventure Canada has many Inuit team members onboard, so you don’t feel like a visitor observing a culture from the outside. You get to know people more intimately, and it’s all done in respect of Inuit culture. The activities onboard, the guests, the expedition team, the crew—it’s all so on point. I can’t wait for my next trip!

More details about Niap's artwork can be found through Feheley Fine Arts.