Almost every aspect of Inuit life has a belief attached to it: a way of showing people how to honour their values. As a self taught emerging photographer, Katherine Takpannie honours her Inuit worldview through her lens; one that is strongly grounded in social accountability and unity. To her, photography is the best medium to reclaim her identity and explore her experiences as an urban Inuk. Katherine has studied her history, culture and language, and uses her knowledge to seamlessly convey her vision and emotion. Katherine's visual language expands out from lush landscapes, to intimate self portraits, and gritty urban scenes. Takpannie's artistic practice also focuses on revealing the complexities and nuances of urban Inuit life, which includes capturing performative and political gestures of contemporary issues that Indigenous Canadians face daily. Katherine aims to help raise awareness, and bring forth important conversations through her work.
I was born in Montreal in the late 80's, and I am considered an urban Inuk. My anaana (mother) is from Apex Hill, Nunavut. As an urban Inuk, I grew up with intergenerational trauma, in poverty, around addictions, mental health crises and in and out of foster care. I left home at 13 and I never graduated high school. However, I am a very proud alumni of the Nunavut Sivuniksavut program. My life turned around completely after reclaiming my culture, and I graduated with honours, and a 3.95 GPA. The program focuses on the Nunavut Agreement and its implementation, Political Science, Research, Inuit-Government Relations, Contemporary Issues, Inuit history, and Inuktitut. Not only did I learn so much, I was able to be a cultural ambassador: sharing my Inuit culture from the Governor General's Winter Celebration to the Oslo Opera House in Norway. From the National Arts Centre to Hui Malama O Ke Kai in Oahu, I have honoured and celebrated Inuit excellence. I want to achieve a worthwhile career creating art that’s also purposeful, encaptivating and shares who I am. Photography has been my way to contribute meaningful art to our Canadian society. I believe that teaching about my Inuit culture will help people understand our past and present. As well as giving resources to help shape the future with Indigenous people in Canada.
My Photography career started out with the Art Gallery of Guelph, in 2018 with the exhibit, Getting Under Our Skin, which was inspired by Inuk filmmaker Alethea Anarquq-Baril’s award-winning documentary Angry Inuk. The exhibition was grounded in intergenerational art and activism that spoke to the central role of the seal and seal hunting within Inuit culture and society. I documented the Pro Seal Hunt Rally on Parliament Hill which was a hybrid fashion show, dance performance, and protest by Inuit students wearing seal skin parkas. From there, the City of Ottawa’s Direct Purchase Program acquired a piece called “Our Women and Girls are Sacred” named after the disproportionately high number of murdered and missing Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit in Canada, and it had showcased it during the exhibit Kaleidoscope.
Next, I participated in Signal: 2019 Additions to the City of Ottawa Art Collection. Followed by 'They Forgot That We Were Seeds', an exhibit that uses food ways to re-imagine the history of Canada as a settler-colonial state, placing Black and Indigenous women at the centre of an effort to construct a counter-archive at Carleton University which had been curated by Kosisochukwu Nnebe. As well as, Indspire x SAW Nordic Lab’s exhibition at the National Arts Centre.
During the beginning of COVID-19, the City of Ottawa's Public Art Program launched Microcosm and I had shared portraits of BIPOC that I respect and admire, to been included within ward 7 at the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre. I wanted to showcase strong, beautiful, multinational individuals as a reminder that we are all a product of complex histories and storied pasts.
Then, my proudest achievement: I became a recipient of the 2020 New Generation Photography Award. The National Gallery of Canada in collaboration with Scotiabank created the New Generation Photography Award to support Canadian artists at the beginning of their careers, aged 35 and under, who create lens-based photographic work. Due to the pandemic, the exhibit only began in August 13, 2021 until December 5, 2021. Soon afterwards, I was one of the winners for the SAW Prize for New Works.
A short while later, In February 2021, the exhibit Starting Over… Again with Olga Korper Gallery was a multi-generational group exhibition celebrating the power of art and community. The show took us on a journey, from ashes to renewal and reminds us that hope prevails even in times of uncertainty and despair. The power of art and community has restored us as we prepare for our next journey.
Next came the Corridor 45|75 exhibit, Napaaqtulik (Forest) at the Rideau Station, O-Train Line 1 featuring a walkthrough of Vanier’s Richelieu Park, one of Ottawa’s hidden woodlands. Dark was the forest on this day, offering just glimpses of shimmering light that playfully danced through large leaves. As well as, She Has Something to Say, at Olga Korper Gallery which featured, "All Eyes on Mi'Kma'Ki'' focused on supporting the Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia. I captured Autumn Peltier, an Anishinaabe Indigenous clean water advocate and Chief Water Protector for the Anishinabek Nation and Ma-Myriah, an Inuk and Mi'Kma'Ki artist and mother.
My pieces titled, “Return If Possible” features my brother Simon, a young Inuk man who left us too soon. Inuit suicides rates are the highest in the country. His death has left me angry, grief stricken and a deep desire for a dire need of awareness and change. I want to honour Simon, tell his story and advocate for all Inuit who need to heal from the acculturation, intergenerational traumas and ongoing colonial violence.
From there, the National Gallery of Canada acquired the Our Women and Girls are Sacred (2016–18) series, which is meant to honour, bring attention to and mourn the many missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The National Gallery added it to the exhibition, 'Movement: Expressive Bodies in Art.' in 2022-2023. These photographs were taken in 2016, when the celebrated Sobey award-winning Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook passed away, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding her death caused the Ottawa Inuit community, including myself, to publicly mourn. The red smoke was a way of honouring the presence and memory of the lives lost. It represents the spirits of these women – including Pootoogook – and is a way of rendering them visible. The camera captures the memory made visible and, for a fleeting moment, tangible.
Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Art Gallery exhibits, 'Our Women and Girls are Sacred #4, 2018' in 'Inuit Sanaugangit | Art Across Time', a celebration of sanaugangit (sa-now-gan-eet or sa-now-gah-knee), “art by Inuit”— a survey of artistic expression from approximately 200 BCE until the present day. With a staggering selection of nearly 400 works produced by artists from Siberia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Canadian work from the Contemporary Period will share creative highlights from Inuit communities across the Canadian arctic from Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut, and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.
Both the University of Toronto Art Gallery and the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery exhibited pieces from the 2021 Sedna Series. From Greenland to Alaska, according to Inuit legend, Sedna is the Goddess of the Sea, the mother of all marine mammals. This series was created from the question, “What will Sedna do when she hears the seismic testing?" exploring the epistemology of Inuit societal values alongside the violent disruption of our Inuit homelands through resource extraction. Next, Fogo Island Arts held and exhibition titled, 'Meltwater' weaves a route northward from Fogo Island, through the Labrador Sea, across the Arctic Ocean, and into the Pacific Ocean, considering what role this melting ice sheet plays in coastal communities that are far away, but nonetheless, interconnected. While the Minneapolis Institute of Art disaplayed 'Our Women and Girls are Sacred in the exhibition, 'In Our Hands: Native Photography, 1890 to Now'.
In 2023, I received a very exciting email about the Lunar Codex. Some have called the Lunar Codex a "time machine to the future." Others have called it the "ultimate anthology," and referred to it as a "museum on the Moon." At its essence, the Lunar Codex is a set of time capsules, a message-in-a-bottle to future generations; the most expansive, international, and diverse collection of contemporary culture launched into space. I am thrilled to have 'The Sacred Eye: The Katherine Takpannie Collection' apart of The Polaris Collection - Launching to Nobile Crater, Lunar South Pole November 2024 via SpaceX Falcon Heavy / Astrobotic MoonBox / Astrobotic Griffin Lander + NASA VIPER Rover.
And now, another very exciting and new exhibition in 2023, for the first time in its history, the storied Simcoe Hall at the University of Toronto is hosting a long-term installation of contemporary photography from the university’s permanent collection foregrounding some of today’s most respected Indigenous artists from across Canada, spanning several generations. Traditionally, Simcoe Hall displays portraits of leaders who shaped the University of Toronto’s development over nearly two centuries but in a significant gesture of acknowledging the importance of making space for Indigenous voices and presence, these portraits have been moved aside to make way for works of art that honour Indigenous continuity and resilience in confronting the colonial occupation of the land. In these artists’ hands, the camera becomes a world-making instrument, linking narratives across time and place, and offering new points of engagement and connection.
Acknowledging the Land, University of Toronto, 2023
Looking to the Future, Age of Union, 2023
Lunar Codex: A Manifest to the Moon, The Polaris Collection, 2023
In Our Hands: Native Photography, 1890 to Now, Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2023
Meltwater, Fogo Island Arts, 2023
Recent Acquisitions, University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, 2023
Let Me Take You There, University of Toronto Art Gallery, 2023
Inuit Sanaugangit, Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq, 2023
Movement: Expressive Bodies in Art, National Gallery of Canada, 2022
Reflect, Olga Korper Gallery, 2022
Land Back, The Contemporary Native Art Biennial (BACA), 2022
Holding Pattern, City of Ottawa, 2021
Franchissements, Galerie UQO, 2021
NGPA Exhibit, National Gallery of Canada, 2021
CONTACT: Toronto NGPA Exhibit, National Gallery of Canada, 2021
One, PAMA Peel Art Gallery + Museum, 2021
Enchanted, Olga Korper Gallery, 2021
CONTACT: She Has Something To Say, Olga Korper Gallery, 2021
Napaaqtulik (Forest), Corridor 45|75, 2021
Starting Over... Again., Olga Korper Gallery, 2021
Hindsight, City of Ottawa, 2020
Microcosm, City of Ottawa, 2020
Indspire & SAW Nordic Lab, Award Ceremony, 2020
They Forgot We Were Seeds, Carleton University Art Galler, 2020
Signal, City of Ottawa Art Collection, 2019
Kaleidoscope, City of Ottawa Art Collection, 2018
Getting Under Our Skin, Art Gallery of Guelph, 2018
Vectors of Transmission, Art Gallery of Guelph, 2021
This is What Economic Relationship Looks Like, Globe and Mail, 2023
Portraits of Care, Body Shop North America, 2021
Traditional Indigenous Medicine, Elle, 2021
Winter/Fall, Spring/Summer, Inuit Art Quarterly, 2021
Autumn Peltier, Canadian Geographic, 2021
'Lowtide', Canadian Geographic, 2021
Autumn Peltier, Canadian Wildlife Magazine, 2021
Chuk Odenigbo, Canadian Wildlife Magazine, 2021
Rooted, Vanier BIA, 2020
Untitled, Vanier BIA, 2020
Jessica Kotierk Archival Material, Inuit Art Quarterly, 2019
Landscapes Paysages', Spring 2018. Vol. 20 no. 1
"Nunavik Sivunitsavut Officially Opens!", Makivik magazine, 2017
The Story of Canada in 150 Objects’, Canadian Geographic and The Walrus, 2017
Split Tooth Book Review, Up Here, 2019
"The Way Forward: Breaking the Cycle by Reconnecting with Culture and Values", Up Here, 2019
“Why Didn’t We Know This Sooner?”, Naniiliqpita magazine, 2017
"Hidden Homelessness", Inuktitut magazine, 2007
Gathering Our Voices, BC Friendship Native Centre, March 2023
Land-based photo project, Carleton University, 2022
Katherine Takpannie: On the Intersection of Life and Art, PAMA Peel Art Gallery + Museum, October 2021
The Power of Inclusion: A Canadian Coast Guard Diversity Symposium, November 2020
First Peoples Studies, Concordia, November 2020
They Forgot We Were Seeds, August 2020
Canada Council for the Arts, February 2020
Governor General's Winter Celebration, January 2018
Winterlude, February 2018
Inuit Awareness Workshops, March 2018
The Inuit Story, A Dramatization, Arts Court Theater, March 2018
Hui Malama O Ke Kai, June 2018
Papahana Kuaola, June 2018
Cultural Performer, September 2016 - June 2018
Evening of Inuit Culture & Music, National Arts Center, February 2017
Winterlude, February 2017
Oslo Opera House, April 2017
Sami Film Institut, May 2017
Sami Parliament, May 2017
Sami Joatkkaskuvla Karasjokas school, May 2017
Canada Beyond 150: Policy for a Diverse and Inclusive Future, June 2017
Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, Indigenous Arts Centre, 2023- Present
Canadian Heritage, Reconciliation, Treaties and Engagement, Research Analyst, 2021-2023
Canadian Heritage, Knowledge Centre for Indigenous Inclusion, Coordinator Inuit Interdepartmental Working Group, 2021
Canadian Heritage, Indigenous Languages Branch - Research Analyst, 2021
City of Ottawa Cultural Funding Support Section Equity and Inclusion Committee Member, January 2020 - January 2022
Employment and Social Development of Canada, Indigenous Programs Directorate - Program Officer, October 2018 - February 2021
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada – Junior Implementation Officer, May - August 2017
SAW Gallery - Intern, August 2015 – November 2015
Nunavut Sivuniksavut – Inuit Studies, September 2016 – May 2017
Eight month Algonquin College Certificate program that focuses on the Implementation of the Nunavut Agreement, Circumpolar Indigenous, Northern Public and Policy Administration, Political Science, Research and Community Development, and Inuktitut.
Nunavut Sivuniksavut – Inuit Studies, September 2016 – May 2017
Eight month Algonquin College Certificate program focusing on the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, Inuit-Government Relations, Contemporary Issues, Inuit history, Inuktitut, and English.
Indigenous Centre for Cumulative Effects - Board of Directors, November 2020-May 2021
Nunavut Sivuniksavut - Board of Directors’ Student Representative (Voting Position), January 2018 -July 2018
Indigenous Arts Support: Grants for Individuals, Ontario Arts Council, 2022
New Generation Photography Award - National Gallery of Canada, 2020
SAW Prize for New Works - Galerie SAW Gallery, 2020
Indigenous Visual Artists' Materials - Ontario Arts Council, 2020
Community Cares: Emergency Response Fund for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Individuals Working in the Arts, Indigenous Curatorial Collective, 2020