Thursday, April 14, 2011

toonik tyme starts

Tonight was opening ceremonies for Toonik Tyme, the celebration of the return of the sun.  The ceremony was held in the city's curling arena and master of ceremony was the local radio station's main man Abe.  Everything that was said was said in Inuktitut and English.  I think there was also supposed to be a French translation but I don't know what happened there.  

They began with the ceremonial lighting of the qulliq, which is a traditional animal oil lamp.  An elder named Martha did the lighting and opening prayer.

 Two thirteen year old girls preformed throat singing.  If you have never heard this it is quite interesting.  I would akin it to a beat box but from the bottom of your throat.  (good example from youtube, watch longer than the first few seconds)

The honorary Toonik award was then presented by the mayor to an upstanding local community member.

Following the presentation another local throat singer performed a duet with a girl who is a foreign exchange student from Norway.  The woman from Norway is a traditional Joik singer and the combination was really cool.  (youtube link to a pop-ish version of this type of singing)

 The woman to the right is community member and lawyer/traditional seamstress/musician.  At center is a woman from Greenland who is in Iqaluit doing her practicum in social work for five months.  They performed a duet of Greenlandic songs in the more traditional style of singing.   The visitor from Norway joined them on stage for one song and that was really super sweet.
The ceremony then turned into a dance competition.  They started with the ladies and people just lined up to dance a jig on stage.  There were toddlers, teens, and even the mayor on stage.  The style of music and dance is due to Scottish influence in the area.  It was awesome to see all these people participating.  All while this is going on there are kids running around behind everyone, playing and shrieking. Kids were everywhere in the audience. No body cared.  Everyone knew each other.

During the ceremony I found Amy talking to her friend Shannon.  Shannon has a dog team and is going to take me out with here sometime.  Shannon also has a super adorable baby son named Jonah.  He and Maeve love to see each other during tot swim.  Anyway, they were sitting by the premier of Nunavut and so Amy introduced me to her.  She welcomed me and shook my hand.  The premier is the governor of the territory.  There are only ten provinces and three territories in Canada so that is kind of super awesome to meet one of those thirteen premiers.

The opening ceremonies marks the start of Toonik Tyme and it goes until next Wednesday.  Today at the kids school, Julie told me, they had a cultural day in celebration of Toonik Tyme.  They had elders come in, dancers, a traditional clothing fashion show, and learned about seal hunting.  Well the seal they had was too frozen to skin so they saved it for tomorrow.  Julie is going to pick me up to go with her to watch it.  I'm super excited and flabbergasted.  The thing about it is that they are just going to carve up the seal in front of kids.  Thinking about it, there is a lot of cow butchering in Wakarusa, but they never showed us how it is done at school.  I asked Julie how the kids react to this and she said that by the time most of them are in school they have already watched it before.  They also send home a note to parents letting them know.  It really isn't a big deal because it is totally a part of the culture.  I am beginning to really understand this.  I think it is so great that the schools are teaching and sharing awareness of this being a part of the culture.  So much is not passed down from generation to generation anymore and to not pass that knowledge would be not properly educating the students.  Granted not all students are from the traditional culture but Iqaluit is now their home and to pass this knowledge is tremendous. 

3 comments:

Lizzie said...

That throat singing is so interesting! I love the sense of community that sounds like it exists there. I can't believe April is already halfway over and you'll be coming back in a couple weeks! I'll miss these interesting blog posts, but I'm super excited to see you in May!

R said...

I am very glad to hear that you are going to go dog sledding! Will you take your camera on the sled for some action shots?

You met a Canadian official eh? Very cool!

I think the "owl" carving you have more resembles a seal (see prior post pics) And I cannot imagine carving it, or skinning. Was it less bloody because it was so cold?

I hope your second night of Toonik Tyme was just as awesome as this one sounded!

Miss you Love!

Katherine Ross said...

I've been waiting for this post! :) Such an interesting celebration... I love how deeply rooted in community, heritage and tradition everything is up there. And of course I'm curious to read more about the "seal carving"....! Love and miss you!