Team of creatives sets out to motivate with rap, art and magic

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Thanks to a few high-profile supporters, Influencers Motivating Influencers (IMI) is on track to roll out their most ambitious community wellness tour yet.

“We always wish we could do more,” said co-founder David DeVos, who with his wife Cora Kavyaktok founded the organization, which launched six years ago.

photo courtesy William Komaksiutiksak
William Komaksiutiksak, also known as rapper Northern Knowledge, toured the Kivalliq, including Coral Harbour seen here, in December as part of a wellness tour with Influencers Motivating Influencers. In the coming weeks, Komaksiutiksak – along with artists Elberlyn and Jennifer Hicks, and magician Brian Glow– will soon set off on a year-long Nunavut-wide tour.

IMI goes into a community as a group of influencers, hosting a number of workshops designed to get people talking about mental health, personal wellness, suicide prevention, anti-bullying, goal-setting and leadership.

Recently, new sponsors jumped on board – Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., TMAC Resources and Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.. They join existing sponsors who continue to help: First Air, Calm Air, Arctic Co-operatives Ltd., Inns North, the Kivalliq Inuit Association, Bell Let’s Talk, and other smaller donors.

DeVos says the goal is to visit each of Nunavut’s 25 communities from now to January 2020. What makes the plan feasible is the cost to communities, because of the new donations, is reduced from $8,500 to $2,500.

All events and workshops over a two- to four-day period are planned locally with DeVos’ support, and can include music and art workshops, community and school magic shows, visits with Elders, school visits, radio talk shows, community feasts and concerts, among many other possibilities.

William Komaksiutiksak, originally of Rankin Inlet and raised in Ottawa, joins IMI for the second time. The 21-year-old brought his own workshop on the Kivalliq Wellness Tour in December.

Komaksiutiksak, also known as rapper Northern Knowledge, is the co-founder of the Ottawa-based Strong Minded Inuit, a collaborative arts group with values and goals aligned with IMI. Music, arts and culture are used as a positive outlet to help spread awareness about anti-bullying, sobriety, empowerment of women and missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Komaksiutiksak strives to support Inuit youth in pursuing their passions and dreams.

“The Inuusiq (Life) workshop is based on the past (Inuit history and culture), present (his life story) and what the future can look like for our people,” said Komaksiutiksak, who testified before the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples advocating for mental health services in Nunavut.

His own troubling personal experiences have led Komaksiutiksak to his life’s work – empowering Inuit youth. Rap is his chosen method, as it’s an expressive and popular vehicle to share experiences and positive messages. The creativity and safety generated by the collaborative workshops are important.

“When all of us are together, we can keep away the toxic energy,” he said.

The upcoming tour is a dream for Komaksiutiksak, who grew up well away from his culture. By rapping in both English and Inuktitut, he teaches himself the language he lost in the city.

“I want to be able to connect,” he said. “Learning and teaching, it goes both ways. I love Inuit culture.”

The work he does in Ottawa is similar, he said, because it helps Inuit transitioning from Northern communities to the big city to feel less alone.

Komaksiutiksak’s workshop will include lessons in how to write rap, to be be performed at community concerts, followed by a performance by Northern Knowledge himself.

 

Magic and painting on offer

On this tour, magician Brian Glow joins Komaksiutiksak. Glow is already popular in communities from previous visits, spreading his inspiring anti-bullying messages via his magic show and his own experiences growing up being bullied. He performs for both youth and the community at large.

Elberlyn, a Kanien’Keha, French Canadian and Dutch artist, will lead art workshops with Jennifer Hicks. The works created by Paint it Forward Wellness Workshop participants will be sold, and the proceeds returned to the community.

“The workshops are full of empowerment, full of discussions regarding past experiences, and motivating people to put their past experiences onto canvas, and paint their feelings,” said DeVos, adding there will be youth sessions, sessions with women, and some with elders.

“Sometimes we have men’s sessions, as well, if there’s interest.”

For more information about IMI, visit their Facebook page.

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Michele LeTourneau first arrived at NNSL's headquarters in Yellowknife in1998, with a BA honours in Theatre. For four years she documented the arts across the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Following a very short stint as a communications officer with the Government of the Northwest Territories, Michele spent a decade at a community-based environmental monitoring board in the mining industry, where she worked with Inuit, Chipewyan, Tlicho, Yellowknives Dene and Metis elders to help develop traditional knowledge and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit contributions for monitoring and management plans. She rejoined NNSL and moved to Iqaluit in May 2014 to write for Nunavut News. Michele has received a dozen awards for her work with NNSL.