Inuvik's Great Northern Arts Festival is back in full swing

The festival's events are back in full swing this year after it was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Events began July 8 and run through to Sunday.

Art is healing, says gallery manager Roberta Memogana

A man touches a small paintbrush to a canvas covered in vivid paint that shows a colourful night sky above water.
Ame Papatsie, originally from Pangnirtung, Nunavut, flew in from Guelph, Ont., for the Great Northern Arts Festival in Inuvik where he taught two-handed charcoal drawing. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)

For Roberta Memogana, the Great Northern Arts Festival in Inuvik is more than a celebration of art and music. Art is healing, she says.

Memogana is an artist from Ulukhaktok, N.W.T. This year, she's taking a step away from the workshops she usually holds in order to serve as the festival's gallery manager.

"Art is almost a therapeutic," she said. "It's a learning process and mixing your mediums, from carving to sewing, and sewing to painting... it makes you want to create more things and add them together. I try to learn as much art as I can from one of the artists and challenge myself to try and do it."

The festival's events are back in full swing this year after it was cancelled due to COVID-19. Events began July 8 and run through to Sunday.

A young man sits in a chair playing an accordion with a microphone in front of him.
Eighteen-year-old Devon Notaina spent his first time in Inuvik playing the accordion for an audience at the Great Northern Arts Festival. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)

Held at Jim Koe Park and the Midnight Sun Complex, artists have come from across the country to participate — and even, in the case of one graphic novel artist, from Belgium.

Throughout the festival, people signed up for workshops with artists.

The festival also featured Inuvialuit storytelling with Roberta Kuptana, shows by the musician, filmmaker and educator Miranda Currie, demonstrations of northern games demonstrations and performances from musicians The Beluga Boys, the 18-year-old Ulukhaktuk accordion player Devon Notaina and the Inuit collective Artcirq.

Painter, writer, and sports hall-of-famer Antoine Mountain was scheduled to read from his memoir Bear Mountain: The Life and Times of a Dene Residential School Survivor on Friday. 

The festival ends July 17 with a fashion show and final ceremonies.

Two men sit at a table covered in dust, tools and carvings. One of them painstakingly carves a piece of soapstone.
Tristan Blyth spent hours working on his first soapstone carving during a workshop with Fort Simpson artist John Sabourin. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)
A woman smiles at the camera behind a pile of brown fibre.
Tanis Simpson works with qiviut, the undercoat of muskox. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)
Two people play music on a stage, backlit by fuchsia light.
Levey Tapatsiak and Maya Cook take the stage with Nunavut's Artcirq Performance Collective. Alongside Allan Kangok, the trio formed a band called Nattiralaaq, meaning 'little seal.' (Karli Zschogner/CBC)
A woman sews fur and beads together.
Miranda Amos, from Sachs Harbour, N.W.T., makes earrings during her first time at the Great Northern Arts Festival in Inuvik. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)
A man stands with a pencil poised over a sheet of paper, speaking with a circle of children around a table.
Bill Thorson — also known as The Map Guy — teaches children how to draw cartoons. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)
Three men, one holding a microphone and speaking, sit at a table.
Antoine Mountain, left, Robert Kuptana and Gerry Kisoun share historical stories. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)


Karli Zschogner is a video journalist for CBC News based in Inuvik, N.W.T. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism (University of King's College) and conflict studies and human rights (University of Ottawa). Reach her at