North

'Heartbeat of the drum' ties cultures together at Cambridge Bay festival

Drumming and dance groups from beyond the North participated in a cultural event in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, this week.

Dance Africa among new attractions at the 2nd-annual multicultural festival

Darnell Anablak drums at the multicultural festival in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, this week. (VBR Photography)

Drumming and dance groups from Alberta and B.C. participated in a cultural event in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, this week.

The community hosted its second annual multicultural festival. Dene drummers from Detah, N.W.T., took part, as well as a father-son hoop dancing duo from near Edmonton, Dance Africa from Kamloops, B.C., pow wow dancers, and local Inuit drummers and square dancers.

"It was a beautiful event," said Cambridge Bay Mayor Pam Gross.

She said the event showcases unique music, stories, clothing and food.

In Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, this week Dene and Inuit drummers are converged with overseas cultures to share the traditions that come along with their art. (Submitted by Tracy Okhina)

"We all use the drum in our music, and Indigenous people we can showcase our beautiful culture through our songs and we can tell stories through our songs and pass on ancestral traditions," she said.

"We can incorporate our own types of customary practices through our clothing and the unique identity that we have. And it all ties us to the drum and heartbeat of the drum."

Marla Limousin, the hamlet's senior administrative officer, says a hamlet employee discovered Dance Africa several years ago in Kamloops and invited them to attend.

Limousin said there are several residents in the community of about 1,700 of African descent. 

She said the band members of Dance Africa were "blown away by their experience" in the remote hamlet, and they'd never been so far north before.

The group Dance Africa ventured north for the first time to take part in the festival. They are based in Kamloops, B.C. (VBR Photography)

"They were welcomed with open arms and were heart-warmed by the friendliness of the community," she said in an email.

"They were excited by the cultural presence in our community." 

Limousin said the group had previously been on stage with First Nations groups, but never with Inuit drum dancers.

"They felt a real sense of culture."

The three-day event, titled Unity in the Community, took place at the high school Tuesday through Thursday. It was a multicultural smorgasbord. The diversity of the community was on full display at the festival's community feast, where people were invited to bring a dish from their home country.

"You can learn so much by interacting with people and learning through music. It's a great way to learn about people, as we have a diverse community, and it's nice to see, and see where people come from," said Mayor Gross.

The diversity of the community was on full display at the festival's community feast, where people were invited to bring a dish from their home country. (Municipality of Cambridge Bay/Facebook)

Last year there were 23 different dishes, and Gross said the curries were among the dishes that stood out.

"We're a growing community and we appreciate everyone that's here," she said. "It was really nice to see the whole community really happy."

The municipality of Cambridge Bay holds the event with support from sponsors like Health Canada. Gross is optimistic that they'll secure enough funding to continue the festival next year.

Written by Chelsea Laskowski, based on reporting by Lawrence Nayally and Katherine Barton