Signifying light in Inuktitut, “qaumma” echoes the fire that Inuit women keep burning to protect their family. Co-written by the prodigious Inuk artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, who handles the direction, and her collaborator Vinnie Karetak, an iconic actor from Nunavut, this sculptural and performative work tackles the forced displacements that shaped the lives of their ancestors and their collective memory. It’s a radiant and poetic act of revolt.
Williamson Bathory grounds her creative work in the practice of uaajeerneq, the traditional Greenland mask dance passed on to her by her mother. Feminist and decolonial, this tradition plays with and addresses the audience. In front of a stunning iceberg evoking the generosity and intransigence of nature, the powerful performers tell how Inuit families find light despite social fragmentation, reclaiming and shaping their own space—marred by centuries of colonization—with the help of their language, their guts, their culture.
Produced by Vinnie Karetak + Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory
Performed by Vinnie Karetak + Charlotte Qamanik
Music Aqqalu Berthelsen
Lighting Design Catherine FP
Sound Design Jean Gaudreau
Set Design Catherine D Lapointe
Video Elysha Poirier
Technical Director Claudie Gagnon
Assistant Director and Stage Manager Elaine Normandeau
Executive Producer Festival TransAmériques
Surtitles translation Elaine Normandeau
Surtitles Operator Nezren Pittoors-McMahon
Coproduced by Festival TransAmériques
Developed with the support of National Arts Centre’s National Creation Fund (Ottawa)
Presented with the support of Cole Foundation in association with Monument-National
Premiered at Festival TransAmériques, Montreal, on June 3, 2023
Written by Julie Burelle + Jessie Mill
Translated by David Dalgleish
About the artist
Vinnie Karetak (Iqaluit)
Vinnie Karetak is a cultural icon in Inuit Nunangat. His face is instantly recognized by Inuit young and old for his work in comedy, journalism, performing arts, theatre and film.
From starring in much beloved APTN programming such as Qanurli, to exploring heartache in his own short films and advocating for an Inuit performing arts centre in Nunavut to co-creating Kiviuq Returns with Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, Vinnie’s dedication to art cannot be captured into a single genre. He is passionate about Inuktitut and its rightful place as the working language in Nunavut, for Inuit creating art for Inuit, processes of communication that challenge colonization and for Inuit family connections.
Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (Iqaluit)
Of Greenlandic descent, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory was born in Saskatoon. She has lived in Iqaluit since 2005. The need to uphold the founding stories of her culture against the ravages of colonialism is intrinsic to her artistic practice, which she has continuously diversified and transformed for over thirty years.
A founding member and artistic director of Qaggiavuut until 2021, an organization that promotes the conservation, development, and transmission of Inuit arts, Williamson Bathory is also a curator, sculptural artist, actress, stage director, and poet. In the installation Nannuppugut! (2021), which earned her the prestigious Sobey Art Award, she exhibited the skin of a polar bear that she killed while defending her family and honoured its spirit by projecting a video onto it, in which she performs a drum dance, engaging directly with the materiality and spirituality of the flesh, whether human or animal. A central element in her work is dialogue, especially with elders, whose stories she treats with love and reverence in Kiviuq Returns (2017-2019).
Her mother Karla Jessen Williamson, a strong advocate of uaajeerneq, the Greenland mask dance, passed this art on to her along with its political significance. It would become a key element of her practice. Deploying the disruptive triad of fear, sexuality, and humour, uaajeerneq encourages exploration of the self and of humanity among both the spectators and the dancer. Williamson Bathory’s creations in various fields have received numerous awards. As an activist, she also pursues the affirmation and recognition of Inuit arts.
« Williamson Bathory et Karetak racontent l’histoire des déplacements forcés de leurs ancêtres d’Iqaluit, déployant ainsi la beauté du Nunavut tout en passant par la violence et la noirceur imposées par les colonisateurs et colonisatrices. »
Alexis Legendre, JEU, 2022-06-06
« Qaumma célèbre cette volonté de briller et de vivre. […] Une performance cathartique. »
Ka Chagnon, Spirale, 2022-06-08
« Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory transforme de façon provocante le cadre de référence de l’art contemporain. »
Maud Cucchi, CBC, 2021-11-07