Beloved artist dies in Pond Inlet
Bernadette Kublu succumbs to cancer at age 54
Artist Bernadette Kublu left the world the way she entered it: surrounded by family and friends who loved her.
Kublu died in Pond Inlet on April 17, after a short but brave battle with cancer. She was 54.
Even two months after her death, relatives speak fondly of Kublu’s final days.
“She would ask ‘Am I overworking you’ or ‘Am I asking too much,” said Juatine Sangoya, Kublu’s cousin, who fed and bathed the talented artist.
Kublu was living at the Iqaluit elder’s centre, already bedridden with rheumatoid arthritis, when she learned she was dying this past January.
Once Pond Inlet residents learned of her wish to return home, they set the wheels in motion.
The Pond Inlet Housing Association provided an empty house. Friends and family, some who hadn’t seen Kublu in 10 years, painted the house and decorated it with donated curtains and furniture.
Kublu returned to Pond Inlet on April 12. She died five days later.
Although in constant pain, Kublu’s spirits were always up.
“She liked hymns, so she asked me to sing for her and I did,” said Theresa Mukpa. “Near the end, she was seeing this bright light, which I assume was an angel coming to get her.”
Kublu’s artistic achievements came late in life. Crippled by arthritis, Kublu turned to art at the suggestion of a nurse.
“I tried and tried and cried and cried at the same time. Finally I finished one, a drum dancer,” she told Nunatsiaq News in March 2002. “I said ‘Look, I managed to do it.'”
Word of mouth spread quickly about Kublu’s artistic talent. Tourists went to her room to purchase her work. The Arctic Winter Games committee commissioned her to draw cards.
But her artistic achievements were second to the respect her home community had for her.
News of her illness reunited her with one of her two sons.
“She waited for the arrival of her son from Ottawa. Her son arrived and a few days later she died,” said Mina Mucktar, Kublu’s aunt by marriage.
“In the last days of her life, she started saying she was tired of her illness but she still showed and gave her love to other people.”