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Renowned Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook found dead in Ottawa under suspicious circumstances


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CBC News has reported that the renowned Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook has died under suspicious circumstances in Ottawa, her body being found in the city’s Rideau River. Pootoogook and her illustrations depicting her childhood in Cape Dorset, Nunavut, gained worldwide acclaim a decade ago by winning Canada’s prestigious Sobey Award in 2006. The following year she participated in La Biennale de Montréal and documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany–the first Inuit artist to ever show in the German exhibition.

Multiple news outlets have reported that in recent years Pootoogook, like many Inuit in Ottawa, had “fallen through the city’s cracks” and become homeless following substance abuse problems. CBC News and APTN National News have more information on this very sad story below.

Prominent Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook has been identified as the woman whose body was found in Ottawa’s Rideau River earlier this week.

Officials with the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative in her hometown, Cape Dorset, Nunavut, confirmed the death of the chalk-and-ink artist, who rose to prominence when she won the Sobey Award in 2006.

Pootoogook, 47, had been living in Ottawa.

Her drawings offered a contemporary take on her culture, where old customs intermingled with modern technology and goods.

Her work is part of the collections at the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario and was recently part of an exhibition on Indigenous pop art at Ottawa’s Saw Gallery.

“Her inclusion in the exhibition was a no-brainer, in that she looked at contemporary life in a way no other artist had ever done,” said Saw Gallery curator Jason St-Laurent, who first met Pootoogook five years ago.

Here’s Jorge Barrera of APTN National News on her death being treated as suspicious:

Ottawa police’s Major Crime Unit is now treating the death of Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook as “suspicious.”

Staff-Sgt. Bruce Pirt said Monday there were some aspects to Pootoogook’s death that demand closer inspection.

“We are treating it as suspicious,” said Pirt, who is with the Major Crimes Unit. “There are elements that are suspicious, so we are going to have a closer look.”

Pirt said investigators are analyzing footage seized from surveillance cameras at the Shepherds of Good Hope, where Pootoogook is said to have previously taken refuge, and other locations to map out her last movements before her death.

Pirt said investigators are also trying to gather eye-witness accounts of Pootoogoook to pint-point exactly what happened before she ended up in the Rideau River where she was found submerged on Sept. 19 at about 8:50 a.m. near Bordeleau Park in Ottawa’s Lowertown neighbourhood.

Pootoogook was “nomadic” in her last movements and it has proved difficult for investigators to piece together an accurate timeline.

*Image of Annie Pootoogook via Nunatsiaq Online