Our Northern artists knocked it out of the park last week at the Arctic Inspiration Prize ceremony in Halifax.
When Arnold Witzig asked the National Arts Centre to produce a performance similar to the Northern Scene’s Opening Ceremony in Ottawa last April, my team and I jumped at the chance to work again with these fabulous artists. Arnold and his wife Sima are the founders of the annual $1 million prize awarded to a multidisciplinary team or teams that have created a viable plan to put their Arctic knowledge into action for the benefit of the Canadian Arctic and its peoples.
The whole thing takes place at the ArcticNet 9th Annual Scientific Meeting, attended by hundreds of Canadian and international scientists, sociologists, and specialists addressing the global challenges and opportunities arising from climate change and modernization in the Arctic. Definitely not the NAC’s everyday audience!
Did I mention the artists were fabulous? Traditional drum dancer David Serkoak opened the show with his mesmerizing drumming, setting an almost reverential tone. As he concluded, Sylvia Cloutier and Beatrice Deer entered with an “ayaya” song that transitioned into throat singing. (Our Northern Scene fans will remember Sylvia and Beatrice from their amazing Tulugak theatre production last spring at Northern Scene). And of course, just when the audience might be thinking that the North was all about the traditional, enter throat-boxing phenom Nelson Tagoona, who blew them away with his virtuoso performance.
Amid the wild applause came our Dehcho drummers, Walter Landry and Joseph Nayally, who performed two powerful Dene drum songs before being joined by the amazing Leela Gilday, who took it home with her powerful song A Cold Wind, accompanied by the drummers. Her voice completely filled the room, and brought the entire audience of more than 400 to their feet.
The evening continued with the main event, the prizes. The $1 million award was shared amongst three Canadian teams whose projects address pressing issues facing Canada’s Arctic and its Peoples: Ikaarvik: From Barriers to Bridges, The National Strategy on Inuit Education – National Parent Mobilization Initiative, and SakKijânginnatuk Nunalik: Healthy homes in thriving Nunatsiavut communities. You can learn more about these fabulous projects at arcticinspirationprize.ca.