Lack of performing arts space in Nunavut pushes artist summit to Ottawa

Looee Arreak is the executive director for Qaggiavuut. (Submitted by Looee Arreak - image credit)
Looee Arreak is the executive director for Qaggiavuut. (Submitted by Looee Arreak - image credit)

A lack of performing arts space in Nunavut means Qaggiavuut's annual performing arts summit will happen in Ottawa instead.

Qaggiavuut, a group dedicated to creating space for Nunavut performing artists, announced in a news release earlier this month that its summit will go ahead from Nov. 3 to 7 — just not in Nunavut.

Looee Arreak, the organization's executive director, said in an interview that aside from the lack of space, the costs in Nunavut are too high to hold the summit there.

"When we rent a hotel, we have to put people in a hotel and we have to hire people to run sound and lighting and we have to rent the hotel. And it just goes beyond the budget that we can use," she said.

"In Ottawa, we have more support."

The organization has spent years pushing for a performing arts centre to be built in Nunavut.

Arreak said moving the summit to Ottawa means the organizers have been able to focus on the summit itself instead of the logistics.

The summit brings Inuit and Northern musicians, actors, dancers, storytellers and other artists together to talk about their work.

Artists from Iqaluit, Pond Inlet, Cambridge Bay and New Zealand are set to perform, according to the news release

Arreak said the main theme of the summit is revitalizing Inuit languages through performing arts.

"We're hoping to encourage one another and to maybe give some ideas to the ones that want to start something or continue what they've started," she said.

She said some of the performances will include a new theatre production from Iqaluit artists that's based on the legend of Sedna.

"We're going to present that in Ottawa, and we're going to present it in Iqaluit afterwards," she said.

Among others, there will also be performances from the Tununiq Arsarniit Theatre Group of Pond Inlet, which Qaggiavuut describes as the "longest-running Inuit theatre group in Canada", and Maori haka dancers from New Zealand.

"In New Zealand, they have really taken back their culture and their language, to a point where they do haka at school for children," Arreak said.

"They're going to be presenting as well ... and they're going to talk about how they do it in New Zealand, and hoping it will inspire us to take further steps to [learn] from them so that we can pursue something here in Nunavut."

The summit will be held at the Club SAW centre in Ottawa.