The prodigious Inuk artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory grounds her creative work in the practice of uaajeerneq, the traditional Greenland mask dance passed on to her by her mother. Irreverent and decolonial, this tradition mingles explorations of sexuality, laughter, and dread. In Qaumma, co-authored with Vinnie Karetak, the artists from Iqaluit address the forced displacements that uprooted their ancestors and colour their collective memory.
The spectators are gathered around an iceberg evoking the beauty of Nunavut, where people interact with a natural environment that is generous and nurturing in its coldness. Signifying light in Inuktitut, “qaumma” echoes the fire that Inuit women keep burning to protect their family. In their sculptural theatre, the artists recount how Inuit families find light despite social fragmentation, sculpting their own space — marred by centuries of colonization — with the help of their language, their guts, their culture.
Of Greenlandic descent, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory was born in Saskatoon, and she has lived in Iqaluit since 2005. The need to uphold the founding stories of her culture against the ravages of colonialism is intrinsic to her artistic practice, which she has continuously diversified and transformed for over thirty years. A founding member and artistic director of Qaggiavuut until 2021, an organization that promotes the conservation, development, and transmission of Inuit arts, Williamson Bathory is also a curator, sculptural artist, actress, stage director, and poet. In the installation Nannuppugut! (2021), which earned her the prestigious Sobey Art Award, she exhibited the skin of a polar bear that she killed while defending her family and honoured its spirit by projecting a video onto it, in which she performs a drum dance, engaging directly with the materiality and spirituality of the flesh, whether human or animal. A central element in her work is dialogue, especially with elders, whose stories she treats with love and reverence in Kiviuq Returns (2017-2019).
Vinnie Karetak is a cultural icon in Inuit Nunangat. His face is instantly recognized by Inuit young and old for his work in comedy, journalism, performing arts, theatre and film. From starring in much beloved APTN programming such as Qanurli, to exploring heartache in his own short films and advocating for an Inuit performing arts centre in Nunavut to co-creating Kiviuq Returns with Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, Vinnie’s dedication to art cannot be captured into a single genre. He is passionate about Inuktitut and its rightful place as the working language in Nunavut, for Inuit creating art for Inuit, processes of communication that challenge colonization and for Inuit family connections.
The National Creation Fund’s investment of $95,000 supports the work’s final development period, allowing the collaborative efforts of the team to make Qaumma the carefully crafted, cutting-edge sculptural theatre piece that the artists have been planning for years. In the months leading up to the premiere, the creative team will finalize the set, lighting and video design, including a technical residency in Montreal and rehearsals in Iqaluit.
Co-produced by Festival TransAmériques, in association with the National Arts Centre’s National Creation Fund.
Developed with support from the Cole Foundation’s Intercultural Conversations program.
|Presented by Festival TransAmériques||Jun 3 - Jun 6, 2023||Studio Hydro-Quebec, Monument-National (Montreal)|
|Presented by Alianait Arts Festival||Jun 29 - Jul 3, 2023||Nakasuk School (Iqaluit)|