Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut July 15, 2016 - 4:00 pm

Sustaining Inuit culture by teaching the teachers

Qaggiavuut Society performing arts teacher training underway in Iqaluit

THOMAS ROHNER
Keenan Carpenter, left, demonstrates western Arctic drumming while Igloolik's Damien Tulugajuk looks on. (PHOTO BY THOMAS ROHNER)
Keenan Carpenter, left, demonstrates western Arctic drumming while Igloolik's Damien Tulugajuk looks on. (PHOTO BY THOMAS ROHNER)
Christine Tootoo, of Rankin Inlet, plays accordion at the Qaggiavuut Society's performing artist teacher training workshop, on until July 19 in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY THOMAS ROHNER)
Christine Tootoo, of Rankin Inlet, plays accordion at the Qaggiavuut Society's performing artist teacher training workshop, on until July 19 in Iqaluit. (PHOTO BY THOMAS ROHNER)

Keenan Carpenter, a western Arctic drum dancer from Uluhaktok, NWT, already has a 10-year drumming career under his belt, even though he’s only 21 years old.

“It took me a long time to learn how to drum,” Carpenter explained July 15 to fellow participants of the Qaggiq performing arts teacher training program in Iqaluit.

“I’d look around me and everyone else is playing good and I’m just slapping a stick. You gotta find that sweet spot.”

Carpenter continues a tradition of western Arctic drumming that few people in the world know, Ellen Hamilton from the Qaggiavuut Society told Nunatsiaq News July 15.

The award-winning society is hosting its first teacher training program for performing artists from across the Arctic July 14 to July 19 in Iqaluit.

The workshop is part of the society’s Qaggiq Project which aims to bring Arctic artists together in an effort to give them the support to succeed, both as artists and as art educators in their own communities.

“Participants will learn techniques for delivering Inuit performing arts programming to children and youth in their communities,” a July 12 news release from the Qaggiavuut Society said.

Carpenter said he has been teaching youth since he was 16 years old, even though he dropped out of high school.

“I didn’t even have an education, just a drum and a stick, but they let me teach at the [local] school. It was cool being a young teacher,” he laughed.

All of his drumming knowledge originated in the western Arctic — in Alaska — Carpenter explained, where he still has a lot of family.

Christine Tootoo, a performing artist from Rankin Inlet, recounted a familiar anecdote of why Inuit drums in the Arctic are quite large in size, until you get to Greenland.

“We got tired of carrying such big drums across the Arctic, so in Greenland they use smaller drums,” she said.

Even though Carpenter has been drumming since he was 11, he said he still gets shy when it comes time to perform.

“Sometimes when I perform I hold the drum in front of my face so I can’t see anybody,” he said, laughing.

The teacher-training workshops wrap up July 19 with most workshops being held in Apex.

Workshop facilitators include renowned Igloolik drummer Pakak Innuksuk and storyteller Sheena Akoomalik from Pond Inlet.

It is the first of many workshops for northern performing artists the Qaggiavuut Society hopes to run through its Qaggiq Project.

“The performing arts are the best way for kids to maintain their language,” the society’s chairperson, Vinnie Karetak, said in the July 12 statement.

“We want our own artists in communities to be teachers of the performing arts.”

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