Sunday, 23 October 2016

All things Inuit

If there were a recurring theme for my month of October so far, it would be all things Inuit.  From October 3 to the 7th, there was an Inuit Studies conference in St. John's at Memorial University.  While I was not formally attending it did dominate my social calendar with folks who came down from up north.  There were many gatherings around food and drink that allowed me to pursue my interest in Inuit art and culture with specialists and elders on a face-to-face basis. 

There was also Katinngavik, an Inuit Arts Festival, including iNuit Blanche –the first all Inuit, all-night art crawl in downtown St. John's.  These events were open to the public, as were some presentations. 

One of the most popular was a lecture and demonstration of Inuit tattooing by Marjorie Thabone.  She is from Nome, Alaska and practices both ink and poke technique and skin stitching.  Marjorie spoke about the meaning and traditions around the traditional techniques and generously offered to draw some of the patterns on the public with eyeliner!  It was a grand mix of scholarship and fun held at the upstairs space at The Rocket Bakery.
Marjorie Thabone tattooist from Nome, Alaska.

The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery was also part of the festival with Sakkijajuk, which showcases a wide array of Inuit art and craft:  drawings, sculpture, painting, garments, photography and more.  While the conference is over, Sakkijajuk will be up until January 15, 2017 and is well worth a prolonged visit.

It seemed that just when Katinngavik was over and I had waived goodbye to one crop of new friends that the next cultural festival in St. John's had erupted.  The St. John's International Women's Film Festival began October 19th.  Along with an auditorium full of people, I was deeply moved by Angry Inuk.  This is a documentary film made by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, which as the program notes, "gives a voice to Inuit hunters whose existence has been threatened by southern-led animal rights groups and their relentless campaigns against the seal hunt."  This is not a shrill or strident protest but a heartfelt project that took Alethea eight years to complete.  It traces her journey from home in a remote coastal community to the international arena of the E.U.  It captures both the beauty of contemporary life in the north along with its frustrations and challenges–definitely an eye-opener.  No wonder the word at Hot Docs in Toronto was that this was an "important film".

And while these cultural treats were being served the protest against the Muskrat Falls flooding looms large.  In support of those who are taking drastic measures of hunger strikes and cutting through barriers there was a demonstration today in front of the Colonial Building.  More than 600 signatures, from the arts community alone, were collected for a petition.  The open letter states, "We stand by Inuk artist Billy Gauthier and his fellow protesters in their fight to defend their artistic, cultural and human health."

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