North

Lovers reunite across borders at Nunavut's Alianait Arts Festival

Yellowknife’s Tiffany Ayalik, one half of the group Quantum Tangle, has been walking around Iqaluit kissing Alianait Arts Festival posters featuring her boyfriend, Greenlandic actor Klaus Geisler.

‘I love working with my partner. It’s amazing when we get to create art together,’ says Tiffany Ayalik

Yellowknife's Tiffany Ayalik and Greenland's Klaus Geisler fell in love after meeting at a festival a few years ago. They will be reunited at this year’s Alianait, and have a chance to collaborate. (Kayley Mackay)

Yellowknife's Tiffany Ayalik, one half of the group Quantum Tangle, has been walking around Iqaluit kissing Alianait Arts Festival posters and display boards featuring her boyfriend, Greenlandic actor Klaus Geisler.

The pair fell in love after meeting at a festival a few years ago. They've been navigating visa restrictions and touring schedules to spend time together ever since. 

Now they are reunited at this year's Alianait and have a chance to collaborate.  

"That's totally the dream," says Ayalik.

"I love working with my partner. It's amazing when we get to create art together."

Alianait 2016 opens on Wednesday and runs until July 3 in Iqaluit. It brings together artists from across the world, with a focus on Inuit artists and the circumpolar world.

Klaus Geisler is one of the headline acts this year, performing in The National Theatre of Greenland’s production of Minik. (Alianait Arts Festival)

Geisler is one of the headline acts this year. He's performing in The National Theatre of Greenland's production of Minik, a modern take on the tragic story of a Thule boy who was taken to New York City with his family in 1897.

The couple will get a chance to work together for Quviagijaujuq, the closing show of the festival on July 3.

'How Inuit are you?'

Ayalik is performing with Greyson Gritt in Quantum Tangle. The Northwest Territories-based duo is known for creating a fusion of music, storytelling, and dance.

Both Ayalik and Gritt come from blended families. Their backgrounds have connected them and fuelled many of the themes in their work.

Tiffany Ayalik is performing with Greyson Gritt in Quantum Tangle. The Northwest Territories-based duo is known for creating a fusion of music, storytelling, and dance. (Kayley Mackay)

Ayalik, who is half-Inuk, says she is often asked to quantify her Indigenous roots — "How Inuit are you? How much Indian do you have in you?"

She says she is often caught between two worlds, "feeling too Indigenous for one circle or feeling too white for another."

Her art has been one avenue to reconcile her identity and reconnect with her Inuit roots.

'I feel a huge connection to use and embrace Inuit stories,' says Tiffany Ayalik. (Kayley Mackay)

"I feel a huge connection to use and embrace Inuit stories that I have to go out and search for because I grew up with my mom in Yellowknife so I didn't have a strong connection to my Inuit culture.

"I've had to go on this journey and ask other elders and ask other people in my community for advice and for teachings and one of the things that I really latched onto because I'm an actor is storytelling."

The group's name is a play on "blood quantum laws" used in the United States to measure one's qualification as Indigenous.

Gritt, who is First Nations, says the same echoes can be found in the barriers posed by Canada's Indian Act and the hurdles Indigenous Canadians have to grapple with when trying to qualify for a status card.

"Needing that approval from a government entity that is simultaneously trying to assimilate us but also wanting their approval to be recognized as 'who I am' is such a confusing, conflicting desire," says Gritt.

Quantum Tangle's performance will open with a spoken word piece dealing with this theme. The duo is performing at the festival's opening concert Wednesday night at Nakasuk School in Iqaluit.

About the Author

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.