Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory ‘humbled’ to be on arts award shortlist

Iqaluit artist one of five finalists for 2021 Sobey Art Award to be presented on Saturday in Ottawa

Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory’s “Nannuppugut!” is made from the hide of a polar bear she hunted in Nunavut. It is currently on display at the Sobey Art Award exhibit at National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. (Photo provided by the National Gallery of Canada)

By Jeff Pelletier

Iqaluit-based artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory says she’s shocked and filled with pride by being one of five shortlisted nominees for the 2021 Sobey Art Award.

“It’s something I never imagined that I would be a part of, and I feel very humbled that my nominator, Taqralik Partridge, thought I was worthy of going through this process,” Bathory said in a Zoom interview from Iqaluit this before she was to head to Ottawa for Saturday’s awards ceremony.

The winner, as chosen by a panel of judges, receives a $100,000 prize, and the other shortlisted artists each receive $25,000.

Much of Bathory’s multimedia art is inspired by her Greenlandic Inuit culture. Notably, her installation piece “Nannuppugut!” which translates to, “We’ve killed a polar bear!” is made from the hide of a polar bear she hunted at a cabin in Nunavut. That piece is on display until February at the National Gallery of Canada.

“The things that allow us to withstand this colonization and eventually overthrow it is that we have the ability to be on the land, to be on Nuna, to hunt, to provide for ourselves, and we also have the ability to create art,” she said. “It is art and our relationship to Nuna that have allowed us to continue being Inuit throughout this period of our lives.”

Bathory also hopes that being nominated serves as inspiration for other members of the Inuit contemporary art community.

“I just want to make sure that young people realize that the application of art is wide, and so very important to who we are as Inuit,” she said. “I look up to Inuit artists all around me.”

In the meantime, Bathory says she’s looking forward to the award presentation on Saturday, which she’ll be attending with several family members. Gov. Gen. Mary May Simon is scheduled to attend the ceremony, her office announced Thursday.

“I have my children, my three kids, my mother, and my brothers and my husband are all going to be there,” she said. “All sorts of family members are coming to Ottawa to be with me and we’re all doing it together.”

Bathory’s work, as well as the works of the other shortlisted nominees, will remain on display at the National Gallery as a part of the Sobey Art Award exhibition until Feb. 20, 2022.

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