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Ottawa’s inuit community celebrates spring


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This afternoon, the auditorium at Library and Archives Canada vibrated to the sounds of the Inuit community’s songs and danses. This annual Spring Celebration was organised by Tungasuvvingat Inuit. Despite the bright sunshine, a polar wind was blowing reminding us that it is still a bit too early to leave our coats and mitts at home.

In the foyer of the auditorium, all were invited to taste some traditional dishes. Caribou, seal, beluga, narwhal and arctic char were accompanied by bannock and wild berry jams.

As the celebrations were to begin, the two Inuit elders who were to kick off the activities were… stuck in their hotel’s elevator!! Poor ladies! The agenda had to be slightly shuffled and Anita Issaluk, a singer from Chesterfield Inlet, was elected to be the first to go up on stage. Guitar and harmonica in hand she played a few of her songs. Easy to understand why her song “Healing Through Song” currently sits in the 11th position of the National Aboriginal Music Countdown. An excellent start to the day and a nice discovery for me who had no idea country-western music had made influenced Inuit songwriters.

Anita Issaluk

Anita Issaluk

Anita was followed by two young ladies, Annie Animiuq & Becky Mearns, who have been singing together for 11 years. Both grew up in Pangnirtung and have travelled to various countries in order to introduce audiences to Inuit throat singing. Becky explained that these songs are actually a friendly competition where the goal is to make our opponent laugh. They had fun asking the audience to guess what sounds they were singing : mosquitoes, the wind, the river, geese, a young puppy, etc.

Annie Animiuq and Becky Mearns

Annie Animiuq and Becky Mearns

Annie Animiuq is trying hard to remain concentrated

No can do! The laughter erupts!

Accordeonist, hunter and former RCMP officer in Pangnirtung, Simeonie Keenainak, took over. He told us that he was first introduced to the accordeon on Broughton Island (now named Qikiqtarjuaq) and he decided to acquire one mainly to break the boredom. It is a most difficult instrument to play but he’s having fun! Elders taught him various songs which had been taught to them by the european whalers who had come to hunt in the Eastern Arctic. It sure explains why upon hearing some of the songs, I had the feeling I was back in Newfoundland!

Simeonie Keenainak

Simeonie Keenainak

Simenonie Keenainak and his accordeon

Everybody in the audience was clapping their hands, tapping their feet and several, women, men and children, simply could not resist the temptation to dance. This was definitely party time!

Several cannot resist the temptation to dance

OUF!! The two Inuit elders who were stuck in an elevator finally made their entrance. They were all smiles. Obviously, this misadventure did not traumatize them. Qaunaq Mikkigaq and Timangia Petaulassie, from Cape Dorset are aged 79 & 69 respectively. They have been throat singing from more than 40 years and have travelled across oceans to share their art.

Qaunaq Mikkigaq and Timangia Petaulassie

The two Inuit elders cannot resist the laughter either

What a beautiful anc colorful beaded pattern on Quanaq's amoutik.

Becky and Annie then had the chance to measure themselves against the two elders. Such a fun competition, full of joyous giggles.

Becky Mearns and Timangia Petaulassie

Timangia Petaulassie and Annie Animiuq

Qaunaq Mikkigaq and Becky Mearns

Just before intermission, Zippie Nochasak, the event organiser and Rhoda Inukshuk, our master of ceremonies, drew a series of door prizes.

Zippie Nochasak and Rhoda Inukshuk

In the second part of the afternoon, we were treated to a fashion show of traditionnal Inuit clothing created by the individuals who registered to parka, mitten and ulu making workshops offered by Tungasuvvingat Inuit.

Zippie and a young child happy to model the clothes made by her mother.

Shane thrilled to show the mitten which took him 17 hours to make!

Zachary, 11 years old, showing the mittens he made.

Zippie holding the ulu made by Richard.

Mabel who made us laugh so much with her boxing gloves. She makes them for women and men. This way both partners are always ready!

To end the celebrations, eight students from Nunavut Sivuniksavut presented a few songs, dances and demonstrated some inuit games.

The Nunavut Sivuniksavut students.

One Foot High Kick demonstration.

Thank you, Zippie, for a wonderful afternoon of sharing with the Inuit community!

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