6 Comic Panels That Prove Tivi Etook’s Genius

Artist Project: Napatsi Folger celebrates the monstrous creatures of Nunavik artist Tivi Etook.

ch’i cha jų̃ kwa’ch’e Dän däw Kwenjè uts’an kwäts’eden-ji
Three panels of a comic drawn in black ink on a white background, depicting a man in a kayak, a spirit and a portrait of a man’s head.

I feel a sense of connection with Tivi Etook, whose work and personality emanate the sense of humor and joviality that I strive for in my life and in my comics.

Six-panel comic drawn in black ink on a white background depicting tools, a human and polar bear, spirits and portrait of a man’s face.
Napatsi Folger, Tivi Etook (detail) (2020) © IAF.

Like Etook, I am also an artist and historian, so looking at his prints gives me a great sense of inspiration and something to strive towards in my future work. While reading about his process and early life, I was struck by the similarities he shared with other Inuit art icons. Like Helen Kalvak, Etook did not initially consider art as a worthwhile career, and like Jessie Oonark, he was constantly drawing even at a young age, when all he had was sand and a stick to create images. 

One of the burning questions I would love to ask if I had the chance to talk to all of the artists that we’ve featured openly and without fear of breaking taboos, would be their opinions on colonialism and the Inuit transition from traditional spirituality to Christianity. As a historian and a non-denominational Inuk, I have always been fascinated by the religious upheaval Inuit underwent in the last century. But as I grew older, it became clear that it was a forbidden subject, taboo and often incendiary if I asked the wrong people.

Black ink drawing of an Inuit spear fishing tool, a pencil and screwdriver.
Napatsi Folger, Tivi Etook (detail) (2020) © IAF.
Black ink drawing of a man in boots and a parka trying to catch a seal under the water, a thought bubble indicates the man is hungry.
Napatsi Folger, Tivi Etook (detail) (2020) © IAF.

“There were many spirits in former times and they influenced the lives of the people,” said Etok in 1976.[1]  “Although I do not want to believe or follow the old ways which involved these spirits, I feel that we should reveal the things which exist and should perpetuate the stories which are told about them.” This is an incredibly liberal attitude for an artist of his time, when non-Inuit were still very actively suppressing Inuit spirituality. It also calls to mind conversations I’ve had with many Inuit about religion. 

Black ink drawing of a person in a parka on one knee having a conversation with a polar bear holding a seal. They are wearing similar pants and boots.
Napatsi Folger, Tivi Etook (detail) (2020) © IAF.
Black ink drawing of a person in a hooded jacket standing on a kayak spearing a spirit figure with finned hands and feet and large teeth.
Napatsi Folger, Tivi Etook (detail) (2020) © IAF.

It impressed me in my twenties to learn that older generations of Inuit—those who knew shamans and experienced the old ways—often view beliefs more fluidly than other cultures. I had always supposed that people of different religions believed themselves to be absolutely right and others as false. But for many Inuit born before the 1970s, beliefs are not wrong or right, they are simply personal. I love that concept of accepting that while you may not follow a belief system, it is still real and valid for the person who does. Etook’s work and stories embody that concept to me and I am so honoured to be able to emulate his art and ideas in this comic.

Black ink drawing of a person in a hooded parka and boots running away from a spirit monster with one eye, a fuzzy head and long talons on its hands and single leg.
Napatsi Folger, Tivi Etook (detail) (2020) © IAF.
Black ink drawing of a man’s face with dark hair, a closed mouth and eyebrows slightly raised
Napatsi Folger, Tivi Etook (detail) (2020) © IAF.


[1] Myers (Mitchell), Marybelle 1976 “Tivi Etook: Printmaker,” in Tivi Etook: In the Days Long Past. Montreal: La Fédération des Coopératives du Nouveau-Quebec 


Author Biography: 

Napatsi Folger is an Inuk comic artist, fiction, non-fiction, and children’s literature writer from Iqaluit, NU. She now lives in Vancouver, BC where she attended UBC to complete an MFA in the Creative Writing Program. Folger is an Associate Editor for Inuit Art Quarterly.

Credit: This article was originally published by the Inuit Art Quarterly on Oct 19, 2020. Copyright the Inuit Art Foundation.

Original Published link: https://www.inuitartfoundation.org/iaq-online/6-panels-that-prove-tivi-etook-s-genius


This story is part of the Nunavik Spotlight. View more content from the Spotlight here.