Tagaq Gillis, Tanya

Throat-singer, experimental musician, novelist and visual artist born in Ikaluktutiak (Nunavut) in 1975.

Tanya Tagaq-Gillis is a throat singer, experimental musician, painter and author. She was born on May 5, 1975 in Ikaluktutiak, also called Cambridge Bay, in Nunavut. Her family originates from Pond Inlet, Nunavut, but her mother was relocated to Resolute Bay, Nunavut, by the Canadian federal government. At the age of 15, Tanya Tagaq-Gillis moved to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and then to Nova Scotia, where she studied at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD, promotion 1998).

She taught herself throat singing, by means of an audio tape she received from her mother. Throat singing is traditionally practiced in pairs, however, Tanya Tagaq-Gillis did not have a partner, so she decided to learn to throat sing alone. It was her collaboration with Björk on her album Medúlla, released in 2004, that brought Tanya Tagaq-Gillis international recognition. She launched her first album, Sinaa, in 2005 and this is the beginning of her great career as a musician. Her music, which is regarded as impactful and sometimes even harsh, protests abuses perpetrated against women, the environment and indigenous peoples. She won the prestigious 2014 Polaris Music Prize for her album Animism.

Her first novel, Split Tooth was published by Penguin Random House in 2018. Split Tooth is a beautiful, yet tough narrative that deals with the life of a teenage girl growing up in Nunavut in the 1970s. The novel was nominated for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize and for the 2019 Sunburst Award. It was selected as a finalist for the 2019 Amazon Canada First Novel Award and the 2019 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. Split Tooth won both the 2019 Indigenous Voices Award and a 2019 Alcuin Society Award for Excellence in Book Design in Canada. The novel was translated into French and published as Croc fendu in 2019.

Tanya Tagaq-Gillis was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from NSCAD in 2015, as well as an honorary Doctor of Musicfrom Laval University in 2017. She is awarded the Order of Canada in 2015. 

This biography is based on the available written material during a collective research carried out during 2018-2021. It is possible that mistakes and facts need to be corrected. If you notice an error, or if you wish to correct something in an author's biography, please write to us at imaginairedunord@uqam.ca and we will be happy to do so. This is how we will be able to have more precise presentations, and to better promote Inuit culture.

(c) International Laboratory for Research on Images of the North, Winter and the Arctic, Université du Québec à Montréal, 2018-2021, Daniel Chartier and al.