Vermilion TikToker Cora DeVos (@littleinukphotography), an Inuk photographer originally from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, was one of 40 Indigenous individuals selected from across Canada to participate in the National Screen Institute’s TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators.
DeVos runs Little Inuk Photography, where she primarily photographs women, finding empowerment through her lens-based practice and working with clients to bring out their self-confidence. She also works to capture Indigenous and Inuit celebrations as well as cultural activities.
The Accelerator program, now in its third year, empowers Indigenous creators with the skills needed to grow their presence on TikTok and build a successful digital career, while amplifying storytelling traditions to a global community. The program runs two free online sessions each week over the course of six weeks, incorporating both traditional and spiritual elements and fostering different ways to grow knowledge and garner attention.
DeVos first received national attention in 2017 with an Inuit tattoo revitalization project. When her best friend, Hovak Johnston, learned that one of the last traditionally tattooed Inuk women was dying, Johnston learned to tattoo herself and others and enlisted DeVos’ help in documenting the process. The result was a book called Reawakening Our Ancestors’ Lines, full of DeVos’ photographs of the ceremonial process and stories of the women involved.
Her most recent work is known as the Gold Series, which depicts Inuit women painted in gold, in many cases highlighting their traditional tattoos. The Gold Series has been featured in Chatelaine magazine, and was shown in a 6-month exhibition at the Vancouver Maritime Museum October 2022–April 2023. It will continue on to exhibit in Montreal for three months in 2024, and in the meantime, DeVos will also be working on developing the exhibit into a book. She explains that Inuit women have encountered so much generational trauma, but the Gold Series tells stories of all they’ve overcome and culminates in a gold photo, highlighting their strength and resilience.
In the midst of her work on the Gold Series, DeVos came across the posting for the Accelerator program. “I decided that I would say yes to things,” she says, and applied for the program. Her confidence in the online sphere had already been building: she had previously seen a job posting for a position where she confidently felt she “ticked all the boxes,” and as its successful applicant, she now runs a program called Inspire Nunavut, instructing Inuit youth on entrepreneurial and leadership skills online.
“This whole TikTok thing started as a joke,” she laughs. “I was sitting at my desk at Western Financial and said to myself, ‘I’m going to become TikTok-famous starting tomorrow.’” Sure enough, her confidence, experience, and skill led her to where she is today. “It’s just amazing when you put something out into the world and see it happen,” she says.
In addition to the 6-week online program, Accelerator participants were given the opportunity to meet in person in Winnipeg November 17 and 18. There, they heard from visionary Indigenous content creators, fostered new and lasting connections, and celebrated each other’s work. Those connections have continued, with participants encouraging their TikTok followers to follow other Accelerator participants online, growing each other’s influence and reach.
DeVos says, “The Accelerator is a really cool way to connect and gain more of a community where we can all stand together and promote each other and build each other up, especially when standing up for rights and trying to break those stereotypes that are out there.” Her wish for her work is for Indigenous women and children to realize that they’re not alone and their challenging experiences are not their fault; that although they must face hardships, that doesn’t have to be their narrative for their lives. DeVos hopes to be someone a little Inuk girl can look up to, to see where she is now and think “That can be me, too.”