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A night of Indigenous storytelling

June 25th, 2018

Curator and artist Taqralik Partridge shows archival newsprint in the shape of a traditional Inuit qarmaq

Curator and artist Taqralik Partridge shows archival newsprint in the shape of a traditional Inuit qarmaq inside Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak. Image by the AGO.

We can’t wait for the July 5th First Thursday: Resurgent Homelands.

This edition of the monthly art party is inspired by Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak – the AGO’s retrospective on two formidable Inuit artists seen through the lens of four contemporary Inuit artists and curators. (Don’t miss that exhibition, now on in the Sam & Ayala Zacks Pavilion – the first time Inuit art has been showcased in the museum’s largest gallery space). First Thursday also celebrates the reopening of the newly renovated (and renamed) J. S. McLean Centre of Indigenous & Canadian Art, which will see works by Indigenous, Inuit and Canadian artists put into conversation across time, to better reflect the Nation-to-Nation relationship that Canada was built upon.

These two distinct but related projects are part of an important conversation that acknowledges Indigenous, Inuit and Canadian histories and how they’re reflected in art that’s made and celebrated – First Thursday: Resurgent Homelands continues this conversation, featuring performances by incredible Indigenous artists, including musical headliner Mob Bounce and storyteller Taqralik Partridge (one of the co-curators of Tunirrusiangit).

In anticipation of July’s event, the last first Thursday before autumn, we spoke to Taqralik Partridge about her writing and performance, her inspirations, and what working on Tunirrusiangit has meant to her.

AGO: Who inspired you to become a storyteller?
Taqralik: Inuit elders are always telling stories. I remember their stories being so much better than any story on TV.

AGO: When you perform, in your mind is there anyone you’re speaking specifically to?
Taqralik: Sometimes I write to a specific person. Most often I want each listener to feel that I am speaking to them individually.

AGO: What inspired the poem After an Argument?
Taqralik: I had an argument with someone and I felt that if I told them some things I knew about they might understand me better. It didn’t work, but I really like that poem anyway.

AGO: What inspired the story Kuujjuatuqaq?
Taqralik: Kuujjuatuqaq is the old town site of Fort Chimo, which is across and down the river from what is now Kuujjuaq, in Nunavik. I was thinking about the times in summer when a young person can just hop on a relative’s boat and go to hunt and fish and camp at a place like that. Kuujjuatuqaq was a beautiful place my father and grandparents, aunts and uncles lived in summer.

AGO: Your stories and poetry have been published many times, including in the Tunirrusiangit catalogue. What does the physicality of publishing mean to your practice?
Taqralik: I’ve had stories and some poetry published here and there. But I have not had a book that is just my own put out. I am always a little surprised to see things in print, since I write mainly to how I think things will sound.

AGO: What does live performance change about how your stories and poetry are communicated?
Taqralik: I write for performance, so I think things I write are best presented that way. However, I have started to do more in my work with visual words – for example, the Qarmaq installation for Tunirrusiangit.

AGO: How does the work of Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak influence your life today? And your art?
Taqralik: These two artists are pivotal in the evolution of Inuit art. Qinnuajuaq’s work was just unmatched for its beauty, and Tim’s work so striking for taking what is mundane and making it extraordinary. In both I see so much love for their fellow Inuit and people in general. I think this really serves to encourage other Inuit artists even after they have left this world.

AGO: What do you hope visitors will take away from Tunirrusiangit?
Taqralik: Laakkuluk Williamson-Bathory (another co-curator of Tunirrusiangit) kept saying that she hopes people have more questions about Inuit art and life and Indigenous peoples after viewing the exhibit. I thought that was really apt, so I’m going with that too. In my own art, I take things out and look at them – sometimes “things” are problems, sometimes celebrations, sometimes just oddities; my idea is to have people look at things from a perspective they may not have considered, and then to think on what they have seen.

See Taqralik Partridge perform in person inside Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak at First Thursday: Resurgent Homelands on July 5. Get your tickets now!

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