Mark Emerak (1901 – 1983)
Holman, North West Territories, Canada
Mark Emerak was born in 1901 near Cambridge Bay in the southeastern portion of Victoria Island. He and his parents Alikamak and Komana lived on the land. In 1914, Emerak met Diamond Jenness and other explorers and anthropologists. Jenness eventually published a song of Emerak’s in an anthology many years later. He married a widow named Napayualuk.
However, after a year, her male relatives assisted another man in taking her to marry someone else. Emerak eventually married a woman named Odjok and together they raised ten children on the land. After his wife’s death in the early 1950s, Emerak moved his family into the community of Ulukhaktok. He began drawing in 1966 at Father Henri Tardy’s suggestion and began to receive encouragement almost immediately. His development as a graphic artist is fascinating: Emerak’s first drawing was of solely a bow and arrow; Tardy encouraged him to draw more, so his next drawing was of the same bow and arrow with a very small hand. He went on to produce more than 900 drawings and 41 of these were made into prints. Though known because of his prints, he never participated in printmaking himself. His work has a unique spirit and often depicts communal moments in daily life.