Carleton University Art Gallery CUAG

“Inuit Piqutingit/What Belongs to Inuit”: Videos and Films by Igloolik Isuma Productions

Curated by Mary-Louise Davis

22 November 2009 – 07 February 2010

This exhibition celebrates the films and videos produced by the internationally-acclaimed Igloolik Isuma Productions, based in Igloolik, Nunavut. Best known for the film Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, awarded the Camera d’Or at Cannes in 2001, Igloolik Isuma has also produced documentaries of Inuit life and culture and a 13-part mini-series recreating Inuit life in the Igloolik area in the early twentieth century.

Two other important companies collaborate with Isuma: Arnait Video Productions, a women’s video group operated by Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Mary Kunuk, which explores issues affecting Igloolik women, and Artcirq, a youth-run company affiliated with the Igloolik youth circus.

“Isuma” is an Inuktitut word that means “thinking.” Thoughtful reflection informs Igloolik Isuma’s principal goals and aesthetic. Founded by Zacharias Kunuk, Norman Cohn, and the late Paul Apak Angilirq as a locally controlled alternative to the Ottawa-based Inuit Broadcasting Corporation, Isuma aims to capture on screen the rich history, customs, stories, struggles, and knowledge of the Igloolik Inuit, as well as the unique landscape of the area.

Isuma’s videos share many characteristics with traditional storytelling. Like oral narratives that create vivid images in listeners’ minds, their videos offer captivating imagery for the eyes. All their videos are filmed in Inuktitut and feature Inuit actors as well as Inuit musicians, singers and dancers. Although their powerful storytelling has a wide appeal, Inuit are their first audience.

Isuma’s videos work within and outside Igloolik to revivify community spirit and strength and to conserve and broadcast Inuit knowledge, presenting and promoting an Inuit alternative to Western-style film and television. Ultimately, Isuma fosters self-representation that furthers the goals of Inuit self-determination.

This festival of Isuma’s films is organized thematically. Day 1, which includes films produced by Arnait and Artcirq, listens to the voices of women and children. Day 2 focuses on cultural heritage in Nunavut and features the mini-series Nunavut (Our Land), created in response to the territory’s founding in 1999. Day 3 looks at important traditions and stories of the past. The theme of Day 4 is the reclamation of traditional knowledge and the revitalization of community. Day 5 showcases the Igloolik Isuma aesthetic, which is rooted in the art of storytelling. Day 6 explores contemporary efforts to empower Inuit and their communities.

Isuma recently established IsumaTV.com, a website that continuously broadcasts Aboriginal video from around the world. You’ll be able to view IsumaTV on a computer terminal in the gallery, and contribute to the exhibition’s blog at: http://cuaginuitpiqutingit.blogspot.com/

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