EDITORIAL: Step up if you want culture

by Editorial Board- March 4, 2018

We had the pleasure of attending Inhabit Media’s second annual author event last week, where we were able to meet and chat with Nunavut media creators, the vast majority Inuit.

We were also happy to put our money on the table for the privilege of bringing home their books and artwork. We can report that each one is more than worth the list price.

A glance through the current catalogue shows the diversity of Nunavut’s culture, with young and adult readers getting the opportunity to learn about both Inuit mythology and issues relevant to modern-day life.

Organizers were worried not enough people would show to make the event – which required flying authors in to Iqaluit – achieve a good return on investment. It was nice to see a steady lineup at the cash register and often lineups to get signatures from the authors who were brought in for the event, a sign that the work is hitting the mark.

Inhabit would surely have a much tougher go of it if it weren’t for funding from government and Inuit organizations, whose contracts enable the company to produce important educational and historical resources in the territory’s official languages. The government doesn’t have the capacity to be in the content creation business, and Inhabit has great partnerships that benefit Nunavut content creators.

This month we’ll get to hear the government’s next Qilaut compilation CD, which we anticipate will delight those who pick it up, if previous editions are any indication. Here’s another Inuit language cultural product that probably couldn’t come to light without government support, but is made-in-Nunavut with the technical skills of a Nunavut-based company.

The Jerry Cans’ drummer Steve Rigby –a co-founder of the Nunavut’s first record label, Aakuluk Music – was at the Inhabit Media event as a co-author of Mamaqtuq, a bilingual board book based on the lyrics of the band’s popular song.

Rigby said the band, now a full-time venture for its members, is looking to tour Europe this summer, a sign that Nunavut culture has the promise of reaching beyond Nunavut and Canada’s borders. It’s not a surprise to the band’s fans but we are hopeful the territory’s other talented artists can follow their lead – under the Aakuluk banner or not – to create a sustainable creative business model.

Such a business model is difficult to achieve. It will be some time before Nunavut’s creative industries, as with many other industries, will be able to stand alone without the support of government or the likes of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, which helped present the Inhabit event.

Until then, it’s on each of us to support the artists we know in our communities. Buy their art, CDs, books, or whatever. Attend their events. Write letters of support for funding requests. Whether they are authors, illustrators, print-makers, sculptors, musicians or dancers, we need to work together to support and promote their work to build culture and keep it alive.

Funding organizations want this to happen. We need to show that we do, too.

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