Since its founding in 2008, Qaggiavuut! has advocated for a Nunavut Performing Arts Centre. Now, after eight years of annual consultations, the not-for-profit organization is preparing to launch an international fundraising campaign to make it a reality. On July 1— 50 years after Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau presided over the building of the National Arts Centre—Qaggiavuut! will begin pursuing financial support for a dedicated performance space for the region.
The Qaggiavuut Society is dedicated to strengthening Nunavut performing arts with training, promotion and artistic opportunities. The organization was given its name by Igloolik elder, filmmaker and actor Susan Avingaq. It is a traditional term to call people from the outlying camps to a building where they would share stories, songs and dances. It means “Come to the great iglu that we have built together!” In a region where traditional Inuit performing arts were once banned, Qaggiavuut! has been pushing to build a space for artists to create, train and perform.
“Our youth must have their language and culture to be strong and sure of who they are and where they come from,” says Qaggiavuut! Program Manager, Looee Arreak, who coordinates and teaches children’s programs that promote Inuit artists as teachers. “We need Inuit role models for our kids. They not only learn language, but values and a sense of belonging from sharing songs, stories and dances. Artists show them a healthy way to release emotion at the deepest level.”
This spring, Qaggiavuut! will tour Kiviuq Returns, an hour-long production based on legends collected from elders featuring a pan-Arctic cast of Inuit performers. Co-directed by Sheena Akoomalik, director of Tununiq Theatre, Kiviuq Returns will be performanced at the National Arts Centre in July, and across Nunavut communities this summer. Akoomalik and approximately 20 cast and crew will be forced to rehearse in southern Canada because there is no Nunavut performing arts space in which they can work.
Nunavut is the last Canadian province or territory, and Iqaluit the only capital city in North America or the circumpolar world, without such a facility. “We need a beautiful space to showcase our talents,” says Qaggiavuut! Chairperson Vinnie Karetak. “Inuit are more than government and mine workers, we are artists. We have always been artists.”