‘It’ll come down to 1 block’: Constructing a qaggiq for Nunavut arts competition

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Solomon Awa thinks he is most likely constructed about 150 igloos, or igluit in Inuktitut, over his lifetime, beginning when he was 15.

Now in his 60s, Awa is taken into account a grasp igloo builder in Nunavut.

On a sunny afternoon in Iqaluit, he slices an extended, skinny knife by means of blocks of strong snow, carving them to suit snugly in an igloo’s partitions. He steps again, squinting within the heat solar, to eye his progress, a skinny layer of frost on his face.

Awa says igloo-building is conventional data that has been handed down by means of generations of Inuit. There isn’t any blueprint.

“It’s all up here,” he says, poking a finger at his head beneath his sealskin hat.

However Awa has by no means constructed an igloo this massive.

Final week, he led a workforce of 12 males in constructing a 65-square-metre large igloo, known as a qaggiq or gathering place, over 4 days. It is about as massive as a studio condominium.

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The qaggiq was constructed to carry a two-day music and humanities competition that occurred over the weekend. The competition was hosted by Qaggiavuut, an Iqaluit-based group that’s advocating for the creation of a performing arts centre in Nunavut.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” mentioned Awa, balancing on a folding ladder and shaving the highest off a snow block he’d simply added to the wall.

Alex Flaherty, proprietor of the Iqaluit guiding firm Polar Outfitting, recruited his workforce to assist Awa and Qaggiavuut. In whole, Flaherty thinks they lower out about 700 blocks weighing about 36 kilograms every.

“At one point we just lost count of how many we cut out,” he mentioned.

The construction of an igloo is kind of like a snail shell, Flaherty defined. It begins with thicker blocks on the backside and spirals into thinner ones because it will get to the highest. The blocks are sealed along with ice by including water within the cracks and smoothing it down.

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“Eventually it’s going to come down to one block.”

Flaherty mentioned nobody within the group had ever constructed something of that dimension.

The qaggiq is about 14 blocks excessive. At one level throughout constructing, the partitions received so excessive that common ladders would not attain, so the boys stacked their qamutiik, or conventional sleds, and climbed up.

Performers from throughout Nunavut

Pitseolak Pfeifer, Qaggiavuut’s government director, mentioned a qaggiq is a spot of celebration. It is the right venue to not solely share performances, but additionally to welcome spring.

“It’s a place to hold a festival, to share culture as Inuit,” Pfeifer mentioned.

Artists from throughout Nunavut carried out over the weekend, together with drum dancers from Cambridge Bay and a theatre group from Pond Inlet.

Looee Arreak, a singer-songwriter from Pangnirtung and the competition’s creative director, mentioned it was the primary time the artists would have carried out in a qaggiq, though the thought is not new.

“These traditional songs, the drums, the throat singing, were first introduced in a qaggiq. It is very special,” Arreak mentioned.

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“It kind of makes me emotional. The architecture of the igloo itself brings so much pride to our culture.”

Pfeifer mentioned he by no means thought holding a competition inside an igloo in the midst of a pandemic can be doable.

He mentioned Qaggiavuut obtained permission from the territory’s chief public well being officer. There aren’t any circumstances of COVID-19 in Iqaluit.

“This might be the only place in Canada where we’re able to hold a festival,” Pfeifer quipped.

“If we have to play outside, perform outside, we can do it. But Nunavut deserves a performing arts centre. Inuit are amazing performers. It carries us through our lives.”

Again on the qaggiq, it is -45 C with the wind chill exterior, however Awa and his workforce are laughing, facial hair turning to icicles as they construct increased and better.

This story was produced with the monetary help of the Fb and Canadian Press Information Fellowship, which isn’t concerned within the editorial course of.