Napatsi Folger is KPU's new Indigenous Artist and Writer in Residence

Thu, Sep 21, 2023

Finding success as a writer – not necessarily an Indigenous writer – was important to a younger Napatsi Folger. But the Inuk literary artist now thinks differently.

“After working as a writer for the last 15 years, it’s really become clear to me that having the term Indigenous in my title, and as part of my identity, is incredibly important. We need visibility and representation,” she says.

Folger is Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s (KPU) new Indigenous Artist and Writer in Residence. She’s known for her creative writing in genres of comic art, fiction, and nonfiction, with themes of Indigeneity and family relationships prominent in her writing.

“Having an Indigenous Writer and Artist in Residence is incredibly important for young Indigenous people to see that they can succeed in traditionally colonial institutions, make space for themselves, and find support when they might feel alone or overwhelmed. Indigenous writers and artists in particular have different barriers and opportunities when it comes to early career work, and I think it’s an important distinction to have an Indigenous Writer and Artist in Residence who understands the nuances of that experience.”

Born in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Folger moved to North Vancouver as a child and grew up hungry for stories from her family and community. Inuit, she says, are excellent storytellers. And as an oral storytelling culture, Inuit have a different way of structuring those stories.

“I have always found Inuit very funny. We have overcome a lot of adversity and maintained a great sense of humour, and I think that makes for excellent foundations for both art and writing,” says Folger, whose work is inspired both by her Inuit community and her late filmmaker-writer father, Edward Folger.

Folger holds a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of B.C. Among her published works is a 2011 children’s book about growing up in Nunavut called Joy of Apex.

She finds joy in learning about new artforms and experimenting with creativity, thus, has long struggled to define her artistic practice. Most of her writing is nonfiction. She also draws beads and sews. But Folger’s favourite medium is comic art, allowing her to “embrace a style that layers deep, emotional stories with humour.”

“Topics that affect my people that relate to social justice and decolonization are particularly strong themes in my work. But when it comes to my comics I usually find inspiration in the everyday, in my dealings with family and friends and with lighter, funnier subject matter. For my beadwork, I often take inspiration from the natural world, and my colour palettes are often borrowed from animals and landscapes. I’ve made Arctic char themed earrings for example, where the colours reflect the various silvers and greys of the scales and bright orange of the flesh.”

Working with students in the Faculty of Arts, Folger will keep regular office hours, offer drop-in virtual writing sessions, and host in-person events on campus. Classroom visits are also on her calendar for the term.

Mentoring writers, she says, is a rewarding experience.

“It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to look back at the various mistakes and successes I’ve had throughout my career and translate them into lessons for new and emerging artists and writers. I hope to continue to do so as much as possible while meeting with incredible students and seeing the work that they have to share with the world.”