Samonie Toonoo is the son of graphic artists Sheokju and Toonoo, and the youngest brother of renowned Cape Dorset sculptors Oviloo Tunnillie (1949-2014) and Jutai Toonoo (1959-2016). Like his sister and brother, Samonie’s work is much sought after by discriminating collectors for its unique view of northern life.
He began carving in the summer of 1994 (he was in his early 20s). Although his preferred subject to carve is figures, he often works with bears and other animals. These pieces are unlike other works produced in Cape Dorset as he imbues the carvings with a unique perspective. Samonie feels a strong connection to a world beyond the here and now. He believes that powerful spirits are always here to protect humans when we are in need. Through his sculptures Samonie expresses his sense of the divine, his great interest in social issues, stories, and myths, as well as carves images that give sculptural shape to more abstract concepts that we all think about but rarely visualize. Therefore, his bears often take on a more realistic aspect, caught at a certain moment, doing what bears do versus taking on iconic poses or whimsical dances, which give us examples of Inuit humour.
Another aspect of Samonie’s work that separates him from his fellow Cape Dorset artists is his approach to the stone. Atypically he ‘cuts out’ the form from the stone rather than waiting for a particular shape to ‘appear.’ This form has its genesis in the artist’s mind, therein directing what Samonie will carve from any particular piece of stone.
Samonie’s exhibition record began in 1979. His work has been exhibited in Canada, the United States, Germany, and Switzerland.