Born in Inukjuak in 1917, Sarah Joe Qinuajua spent her early childhood living at various hunting and fishing camps throughout Northern Quebec.
Qinuajua began to carve shortly after settling in Puvirnituq in 1959, and observing what carvers in the area were producing (Myers [Mitchell] 1985). She was one of the first artists to produce work for the community print shop.
Influenced mainly by her father, Joe Talirunili (one of Puvirnituq’s most celebrated carvers), Sarah Joe Qinuajua often tried to capture scenes and experiences from her early memories living on the land. She also recalls James Houston’s visits along the coast between Inoucdjouac (Inukjuak) and Sugluk (Salluit) and recalls that “he encouraged people to start carving” (Myers [Mitchell] 1985).
Although Qinuajua also carved, due to poor health and a broken wrist suffered later in her career, she developed a preference for producing drawings for stonecut prints.
Qinuajua’s work is often based on her early memories of travelling throughout the Ungava Peninsula with her family. Typical imagery includes camp scenes, everyday chores, animals, sleds, and igloos.
One of Puvirnituq’s most recognized print artists, Qinuajua’s work has been exhibited at the international level in important shows in Canada, the United States, France, and Belgium. Her carvings and prints are found in public collections throughout North America, including those of the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Ottawa), the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Dennos Museum Centre (Michigan), the Saputik Museum (Puvirnituq), and the National Museum of the American Indian (Washington, D.C. and New York City), to name a few.
Described as “straightforward” and “anecdotal” (Saucier 1998: 158) Qinuajua’s stonecut prints often depict typical domestic scenes. Generally speaking, Qinuajua’s work became more detailed throughout her career. Many of her later pieces are particularly well developed and demonstrate the accomplished skills of both the artist and the printer. Many of her early pieces include the inked impression of the perimeter of the printing stone (as was typical in early Puvirnituq prints), but in her later, more multi-faceted works, this distinctive feature is almost non-existent.
Sarah Joe first gained recognition for her artwork when several of her drawings were translated to prints and included in the 1964 Povungnituk Print Collection. Since that time, her pieces have appeared in numerous publications, such as Saucier’s Guardians of Memory, and in various issues of Inuit Art Quarterly.
1985 Interview with Sarah Joe Talirunili and Samisa Ivilla, translated by Aliva Tulugak.
1976 Povungnituk Print Collection (catalogue). Montreal: La Fédération des Coopératives du Nouveau-Québec.
1998 Guardians of Memory: Sculpture Women of Nunavik. Quebec City: L’instant même.