UNIT 2 – Lesson 2 – Shuvinai Ashoona: Inspirations and Reactions

Before we get to looking at Shuvinai’s work you need to know that some of her art contains images of nude bodies. People who look at art have all kinds of different responses to nude images. Some people laugh, others feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. All of these responses are normal. But Why is the body so humorous and/or embarrassing? Do you fall into hysterical laughter when you are in the shower or bath? Probably not. Part of the surprise of seeing a nude figure in art is just that: we are accustomed to our unclothed bodies only in private. To see one in public is a shock. Artists know this too. In showing the nude body, artists remind us that the human body can represent many things.  Nudity can be a symbol of:

  • Privacy: The artist observes a very private moment when the person in the artwork is alone or with someone he or she loves.
  • Innocence: Many Christian religious images produced over the last five hundred years include images of angel figures as nude babies, and the Christ child is often depicted nude. Like all babies, these figures are innocent, indifferent to their nudity.
  • Bravery: When Michelangelo sculpted the famous statue of David, he spoke of David’s nudity as a symbol of bravery. David faced a giant without any protection on his body, relying on his faith and his skill to keep him safe.
  • Vulnerability: Nudity can represent a lack of defence—a person who has nothing and has nowhere to hide.

Another way to approach this topic is to think about clothing instead of nudity. What do clothes tell us about a person? Clothing can send messages about:

  • the time in history
  • age and culture
  • wealth and style
  • the wearer’s profession
  • stereotypes and expectations

Some artists suggest that the nude figure is set free from all of the “distracting” information transmitted by what we wear, and becomes just a human being, from any time, place or culture.


Please have a look at Shuvinai’s famous artwork titled “People, Animals, and the World Holding Hands” and then answer the questions that follow. 

  1. What point of view, or where is the viewer looking from, in this art work?
  2. List the animals you see?
  3. Describe a mythical animal in this artwork.
  4. List the people that you see.
  5. What is this artwork saying, to you?

Interesting facts:

  • Shuvinai gets her images from the world around her in Kinngait, as well as from films, comic books and TV.
  • She uses pencil crayons because paints freeze in the cold far north.

Follow-up art activity:

In your sketchbook,  using pencil crayons, markers or crayons, create a full page drawing of your own that answers to the same title “People, Animals, and the World Holding Hands”  using people, animals, images from your own world, both imaginary and real.  Perhaps you might draw from a bird’s eye view, or a worm’s eye view, or any other view you choose. Begin by sketching lightly so that as your drawing grows and evolves you can refine your ideas, and you’ll be able to make mistakes disappear when you colour in your picture. Challenge yourself to “just start  drawing”.

Please send me your answers and drawing by email in a LOW resolution photo or document, or better yet, send me the link to your work so that my email box does not fill up.

The work is due next Tuesday.   Have a good, safe weekend.


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