Inuit arts society trains artists to teach

The Qaggiavuut Art Society wants to give Northern artists the tools to teach their art to children and youth and to earn a living in their own profession.

Qaggiavuut Art Society's 2nd goal is to help artists earn a living through their work

A drum dancing demonstration in Iqaluit, part of Qaggiavuut Arts Society's teacher's training workshops July 14-19. (Submitted by Qaggiavuut Arts Society)

The Qaggiavuut Art Society wants to give Northern artists the tools to teach their art to children and youth and to earn a living in their own profession.

The award-winning arts society's first performing arts teacher training workshop with about a dozen Inuit artists from across the Arctic in Iqaluit began last week and wraps up today.

"We have various artists coming together in various disciplines from drum, to throat singing, to circus, to theatre," said Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, project manager with Qaggiavuut.

Pakak Innuksuk from Igloolik, Keenan Carpenter from Ulukhaktok, N.W.T., and Damien Tulugajuk from Igloolik pose with their drums before running a drum dancing and Inuit games workshop. (Submitted by Qaggiavuut Arts Society )
"The idea is that each of the artists is teaching one another their form of art and how they teach that form of art to children."

The plan is to create a set of best pedagogical practices to help artists teach.

"It's really exciting; we had never done this before," said Ellen Hamilton, Qaggiavuut's executive director.

"We have so many talented people in the North, and we need to keep the Inuit performing arts especially maintained strong and vital."

Earning a living

Williamson Bathory said the workshops are not only useful in terms of passing on traditional art forms to the next generation, but they also help to give artists the skills to earn a living through their work.

"We're helping artists become fully professional so they can make it a full-blown job that many people dream of having."

Igloolik's Pakak Innuksuk is one of the foremost practitioners of the North Baffin qilaut (drum dance). He came to Iqaluit to conduct workshops on how to make drums and teach drum dancing.

Making drums and teaching music and dance is "not easy," he said. 

What motivates him is seeing the next generation pick up the traditional skills. He said he was fearful for a time that the art form may get lost.

"I'm really happy that it's coming back," he said. 

'A lot more than a foot in the door'

These teacher trainings were made possible by the money Qaggiavuut received from the Arctic Inspiration Prize for the Qaggiq project.

"The Arctic Inspiration Prize was the big wave for us to start doing lots more work," said Williamson Bathory.

"It's a lot more than a foot in the door. We're inside the door. We're actually doing programming in performing arts."

Since winning the prize the group has hired new staff and opened up an office in Iqaluit, which doubles as lodging for visiting artists and a rehearsal and meeting space.

The groups said due to an overwhelming number of applicants from the western Arctic for their teacher training, they are planning on offering a second session in the fall in Cambridge Bay.   


Sima Sahar Zerehi is a reporter with CBC North. She started her career in journalism with the ethnic press working for a Canadian-based Farsi language newspaper. Her CBC journey began as a regular commentator with CBC radio's Metro Morning. Since then she's worked with CBC in Montreal, Toronto and now Iqaluit.

With files from Lucy Burke and Michael Salomonie