Aalaapi | ᐋᓛᐱ 
The exquisite tones and nuances of people who live north of the 55th parallel. A contemplative plunge into the intimacy of young Inuit women, Aalaapi reveals the North through radio.
Let voices speak and conversations take place. Learn to listen. Aalaapi — to be silent so that beauty can be heard, in Inuktitut — fragments of the North in an audio documentary where five young women from Nunavik — Akinisie, Audrey, Louisa, Mélodie, Samantha — talk about their daily lives, their hopes and aspirations, in a conflux of tradition and modernity.
A window allows us to peek into a house where two Inuit women are playing cards and preparing a meal. The passing of time. To an audio backdrop of gusts of wind, throat singing and the sound of engines, Aalaapi pays tribute to community radio, a means of connecting with others across a vast territory. Beyond clichés and sensationalism, it aims for a subtle shift of focus away from the self in an approach imbued with warm good humour. This singular project, created by a collective of both French-speaking Quebecers and Inuit, captures the exquisite tones and nuances of people who live north of the 55th parallel. Two cultures share their humanity in this vibrant communion.
Produced by Collectif Aalaapi
Original idea Laurence Daup
inais + Marie-Laurence Rancourt
Directed by Laurence Dauphinais
Radio documentary directed by Magnéto – Marie-Laurence Rancourt + Daniel Capeille
Performed by Nancy Saunders + Ulivia Uviluk
Set Design Odile Gamache
Lighting Design Chantal Labonté
Music Antonin Wyss
Sound Joël Lavoie
Video Guillaume Vallée
Other members of the collective Audrey Alasuak + Mélodie Duplessis + Caroline Jutras Boisclair + Samantha Leclerc + Louisa Naluiyuk + Akinisie Novalinga
Assistant Director and Stage Manager Charlie Cohen
Set Design Assistant Nancy Saunders
Translated by Brett Donahue + Nicolas Pirti-Duplessis
Animation Camille Monette-Dubeau
Tour Manager Charlotte Ménard
Technical Director and Lighting Manager on tour Chann Delisle
Production Director of the original version Letícia Tórgo
Production and touring La Messe Basse
Created in association with Magnet
With the support of Nouveau Chapitre
Creative residencies Quai 5160, maison de la culture de Verdun + Ateliers de LA SERRE – arts vivants + Conseil des arts de Montréal
Presented in association with Théâtre Prospero
Written by Elsa Pépin
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Centre du Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui, on January 29, 2019
Collectif Aalaapi (Nunavik + Montreal)
The Aalaapi Collective is a group of multidisciplinary artists, Inuit and non-Inuit, who banded together to make Aalaapi, which is both an audio documentary and a hybrid theatre piece that combines stage and radio performance.
It was first presented in salle Jean-Claude Germain at Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui in January 2019. The members of the collective are Audrey Alasuak, Daniel Capeille, Laurence Dauphinais, Mélodie Duplessis, Caroline Jutras Boisclair, Samantha Leclerc, Louisa Naluiyuk, Akinisie Novalinga, Marie-Laurence Rancourt and Hannah Tooktoo, along with Nancy Saunders and Ulivia Uviluk, two women from Nunavik — Kangirsuq and Kuujjuaq respectively, who be making their first-ever stage appearance in this production of Aalaapi.
A multidisciplinary visual artist and throat singer, Nancy Saunders will present the sculptural installation Katajjausivallaat, the Cradled Rhythm during the unveiling of the reorganized Inuit art collection at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2020. In addition to her work as a filmmaker and photographer, Ulivia Uviluk is also a young activist who works closely with Native women.
The first part of the audio documentary Aalaapi was produced by Marie-Laurence Rancourt, a writer and radio artist. The artistic director of Magnéto, an organization devoted to developing and promoting radio and sound works featured at the Résonance festival, Marie-Laurence has made several audio documentaries, including L’Écorce et le noyau, La Punition and La nuit Myra Cree.
The staging of Aalaapi was done by Laurence Dauphinais, a writer, performer, director and musician. She co-directed the collective performance Le iShow and continues to tour with Siri, a piece where she performs with the famous Apple app. After first presenting the piece (co-created with Maxime Carbonneau) at the FTA in 2016, it went on tour to Rio de Janeiro, Edinburgh and Dublin.
Aalaapi features Inuit women presented for who they are, and not merely as representatives of their Inuit identity. Why is that important?
Nancy Saunders: We must get beyond the image of the Inuit as stoic hunters and gatherers. They are also businessmen, artists, social workers, single mothers, modern people who travel.
I think we need to embrace both our traditional culture and modernity, to know our own history so that we can better understand our parents and ancestors, what they experienced, so that we can be proud of who we are and have an informed vision for the future.
The more there is a true reflection of modern Inuit, the less prejudice they will face. I am half Inuit and half Québécoise and experienced discrimination because I am not white enough nor Inuit enough. I lived with shame and hatred regarding my culture when I was a child. I later recognized the importance of my culture, and that’s what saved me.
A lot of workers come to the North with very little knowledge of our culture, resulting in a dialogue of the deaf — no one is singing from the same hymn book. It’s better to admit you know nothing about the Other, but are open and curious and willing to interact.
As an artist I want to build that bridge between my people and the outside world, to try to make people aware of the problems we face, and also to share what I’ve learned in order to encourage my people to move forward. Aalaapi is a good reflection of the North, but we must not lose sight of the fact that we have a lot of serious social problems in our communities. Aalaapi is an opportunity to open up the conversation.
Aalappi began as a radio documentary. Why did you choose radio to tell this tale of young women and their experience of the North?
Laurence Dauphinais: Community radio plays an important and special role in the lives of the Inuit. It is a social connector that allows anyone to send messages–right down to someone calling in because he has lost his house keys! This project talks about listening and silence, and audio connects with listeners in ways that an image does not. The medium of sound allows us to dodge a certain cognitive bias.
Marie-Laurence Rancourt: Radio is extraordinary. It records both voices and silences, thoughts as they take shape. A voice is revealing in that it has a layer just waiting to be unfurled, laid bare. The documentary is a certain portrayal of the North, but goes beyond that.
It presents a powerful reflection of our times that extends beyond the northern context. It is a reflection on what it means to speak up and be heard. What comes through in the voices of the women whenever they speak is as important as what is said, which is something that radio reveals in striking fashion. There is a lot of information in their hesitations, doubts, omissions of certain words.
Aalaapi invites the listener to be attentive. We have a habit, to my mind spurious, of thinking of radio as a medium of speech, but it is also a medium conducive to listening, to keeping quiet, stepping aside, paying attention. I find every word in the documentary to be precious. I have the impression that all the voices draw part of their strength from the inexpressible, which gives them depth.
Did the issue of the legitimacy of whites representing the North crop up?
L.D.: It was something we were constantly discussing, a demanding but necessary consideration. We always had to be sure that we were collaborating respectfully and as equals, that we adapted to others and they adapted to us. It is important for northern communities to take back ownership of traditional cultural forms of expression that have been forbidden or stolen from them.
Power being based in the south, it is necessary and important that northern cultures be duly represented. I wanted to work from a perspective of empathy, rather than remaining ignorant and unaware. All of us wanted to go beyond any sensationalist, stereotyped representations of the North.
We created a set design consisting of a house with a window, a house where two Inuit women live. That view provides limited access to certain aspects, like a metaphor for the work required to access a different culture. For example, when the actresses engage in throat singing in the house we can hear them, but we don’t see them. They are singing not for the performance, but for themselves.
The challenge was to create an encounter between the audience and the two women, one that favoured relaxation and openness.
The piece allowed us to question contemporary Quebec theatre and Quebec society by integrating the reality of people who share a territory, but whose mutual interests and baggage are completely different. The dominant French-language culture has been oppressing for some. It is our duty to assume responsibility for that state of affairs.