Iceberg of Light
The prodigious Inuk artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory grounds her creative work in the practice of uaajeerneq, the traditional Greenland mask dance passed on to her by her mother. Irreverent and decolonial, this tradition mingles explorations of sexuality, laughter, and dread. In this first draft of Qaumma, co-authored with Vinnie Karetak, the artists from Iqaluit address the forced displacements that uprooted their ancestors and colour their collective memory.
The spectators are gathered around an iceberg evoking the beauty of Nunavut, where people interact with a natural environment that is generous and nurturing in its coldness. Signifying light in Inuktitut, “qaumma” echoes the fire that Inuit women keep burning to protect their family. In their sculptural theatre, the artists recount how Inuit families find light despite social fragmentation, sculpting 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
Created and performed by Vinnie Karetak + Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory
Music Aqqalu Berthelsen
Lighting Design Catherine FP
Sound Design Jean Gaudreau
Coproduced by Festival TransAmériques
Co-presented by VOX, centre de l’image contemporaine with the support of The Cole Foundation
Written by Catherine Girardin
Translated by David Dalgleish + Maude Labelle
Premiered at Festival TransAmériques, Montreal, on June 5, 2022
About the artists
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 2004. 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 pioneer in championing 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.
“Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory provocatively transforms the framework of references for contemporary art. Williamson Bathory’s performance practice courageously defies preconceived notions through embodied lived experience. Her works invite us to share in a world abundant with possibility infused with the interconnections of land, family, community, and cultural knowledge.”
Sasha Suda member of Sobey Prize jury
“IKUMAGIALIIT is a roller coaster of beautiful highs and foreboding lows, but in the hand of this multi-faceted cast, it’s a wild ride that has a firm hold on the story it tells.”
Isabella Perrone, Broadway World, 2019-12-16, à propos de IKUMAGIALIIT / about IKUMAGIALIIT
“Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools […] is an uncomfortable, unsettling, powerful, raw and absolutely beautiful piece of theatre. […] Everything about the show is brilliant and powerful.”
Jennifer Hartley, Ottawa Life Magazine, 2020-01-24, à propos de Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools
“Breaking the boundary of “play-space” and audience, Bathory enters into the audience performing a pseudo-traditional Greenlandic mask dance. Painting fer face black witch red creases and stuffing small balls into either cheek to contort her face movements become finely tuned like a panther stalking its prey.”
Sarah Haly, The New Ottawa Critics, 2020-01-30, à propos de Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools