Monday, January 21, 2019





"By being together in this theatre, we have all engaged in an agreement: you agree that it is vitally important to hear and see Inuit theatre professionals working in their own language and we agree to work hard on expanding our use of the language, reclaiming the space it has always taken in this place called Canada."

Director Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory's above program note, excerpted from an extended guide (SEE GUIDE BELOW, AT END OF REVIEW) to the stories being told by a superb ensemble of performing artists, exemplifies the detailed and articulate ways in which language has been assembled within a piece of theatre that relies equally upon shape, sound, verbal communication, and the haunting echo-like qualities of a Bee Woman, Foxes, geese, sea women, and a host of characters who bring to life age old Inuit tales that speak to all of the living creatures the earth has to offer. 

An especially moving and evocative section reveals the diverging sense of consent and playful sensuality among a den of animals. A wolverine, a wolf, and finally a raven conspire to create physically theatrical and potentially transgressive moments of great humour and potential conflict. And yet the conflict and humour blend seamlessly as they are met with a complex mixture of great caution, pleasure, and abandon by both audience and performer alike. One moment reveals a biting serio-comic look at the potential coupling of "the little siksik (ground squirrel)" as they try to gain attention from the title character 
Kiviuq -

"Have me," says siksik.
"I don't want you," replies Kiviuq. "You have a very weak spine."

In this instance of spoken language and intricately performed vocal sound the performers display their great skill for mixing provocative movement that is based within complex forms of consent and retreat culled from tales of an animal world versing itself in respect, retreat, and direct response to a variety of experience, both hostile and embracing. The incredible musicality of each voice - spoken and sung - throughout this mesmerizing ninety minute performance, becomes a simultaneous combination of booth soothing and erupting sight and sound. 

Near the end a drum dance (the Goose Dance) occurs, with performers taking flight as they "mimic movements of geese beginning to fly, clean their feathers, [and] prepare their nests and communicate with each other." Although a tightly choreographed and skilful ensemble, with a form of brilliantly crafted syncopation as part of their varied performance mode, each actor gives a unique and highly charged interpretation within this beautiful culmination - followed by an epilogue/finale that becomes a high point of dance, song, and ensemble movement where each performer is given the opportunity  to share a moment of moving and immersive experience.

Audience members who do not speak Inuktitut are encouraged in the program to follow the guide to each scene, to study it before and after the performance, as an extended way into the immersive experience of the play. 

This expansive mode of performance, simply staged yet varied through the use of translucent projections and onstage video performance, enables the performers to become a part of a form of meta-theatrical experience that moves across barriers - giving the overall piece a sense of transcending the walls of performance spaces that have excluded these experiences from Canadian theatre for far too long. 

Inuit communities continue to build toward their first performing arts centre where work can be created and shared nationally and internationally. The Oaggiq Collective website ( contains detailed information about the work of the company and how donations can be made.

the image of water re-occurs throughout and becomes a timely, moving, and haunting image for performers and spectators to become immersed in as indigenous communities continue to fight for the safety of both land and water

program guide to the performance below; (included in theatre program)

The Legends, Songs and Poetry of Kiviuq Returns
A note from director Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory:
Inuktitut is the language of Kiviuq Returns. Let it wash over you. Look for the intent, listen for the emotion, hear the cracks of smiles, the lines of sorrow. Feel the corners and curves of our holophrastic way of speaking. Close your glottis around the sounds “qi-qu-qa,” arch your tongue towards the roof of your mouth for “gi-gu-ga,” and hiss without using your teeth for “lli-llu-lla.” Inuktitut is a river; it flows from a lake that is our histories and dreams, it bends around the land that is our daily lives, hardships and joys and it pours into the ocean that is the working of our minds, our creativity. With this performance we immerse you in our language…Inuktitut.
By being together in this theatre, we have all engaged in an agreement: you agree that it is vitally important to hear and see Inuit theatre professionals working in their own language and we agree to work hard on expanding our use of the language, reclaiming the space it has always taken in this place called Canada. As a group of Indigenous people who have faced the theft of our lands, culture, spirituality, music, stories, histories and language and who rage against the colonized pull of suicide and loss, we wrap ourselves in the practice of Inuktitut theatre. Our repeated actions on stage are healing. Our connection between our elders and young people is deepened. Humour balances our sadnesses. This play creates safety like the blocks of sod that insulated the houses of our ancestors.
Before, during and after the viewing Kiviuq Returns, read the English description of the play’s storyline to further the depth of your understanding of the play.
Qujannamiik qaiqaugasi. Thank you for being here.
Kiviuq is the eternal wanderer; the legendary hero of Inuit stories from across the Arctic. In this theatrical retelling, Kiviuq journeys by qajaq (kayak) encountering shape-shifting animals that are by turns enchanting, comical and treacherous. He calls on his spirit guides to find his way. Our stories foretell that if Kiviuq dies before he returns home, Inuit will disappear from the earth.
This performance, called Kiviuq Returns is based on the legends of the Inuit hero Kiviuq, as remembered and shared by elder storytellers who you will see on video telling their stories. The elders’ stories are reenacted by our cast.  In early 2017, esteemed elder-storytellers travelled to Iqaluit from their communities to tell us the legends of Kiviuq. The elders are of the last remaining generation of Inuit that lived their lives traditionally on the land. They had first heard the stories as children in iglus, sealskin tents and sod houses listening to their own elders, and so they now continue the oral tradition of the legends of Kiviuq. Hundreds of stories about Kiviuq exist, but in our performance, you will only hear five.
In the opening scene, Kiviuq imagines the ocean currents as a female spirit embracing a seal spirit. He dreams that he bears witness to two hunters in two completely different places in the Arctic hunting seals in completely synchronized time. The characters of this dream come to Kiviuq and in recognizing each other, Kiviuq crosses over into the imagination of the spirits and the hunters. They all close their eyes and imagine Kiviuq drum dancing to Qulittalik’s Song.
This song is a pisiq, a song created for drum dancing. Qulittalik is a much-respected name from the region around Igloolik. His pisiq is about the anticipated joy of arriving to particular hunting territories as the seasons change. The language of the song is archaic, complicated and beautiful. 
Note that in Inuktitut there is no gendered pronouns – “he” and “she” are not discernable in our grammar. What you are reading here are not literal translation, but English interpretations of the elders’ stories. Inuit stories, and Kiviuq stories in particular, are sometimes part of a continuum and so have no beginning and end.
The Orphan story is the beginning of Kiviuq’s journey. It was told to us by many elders, but in this performance, we have used the version as remembered and told by Susan Avingaq from Igloolik.
The orphan is mistreated. When people gather together to play games, bullies tear her clothes apart. Her grandmother sews her clothing back together, but the bullies always destroy them again.  Only one person abstains from the bullying: the handsome Kiviuq. At one point, the grandmother has had enough of the abuse.
The grandmother is an angakkuq (shaman). She tells the orphan to go and look for a young seal head that was left at an abandoned tent site. The orphan retrieves it and the grandmother uses it to transform the orphan into a seal. The grandmother begins to train the orphan to be a seal by dunking her head into a piss pail and making her hold her breath. Finally, the orphan can hold her breath for a very long time and the grandmother pushes her into the ocean realm.
The grandmother instructs the orphan/seal to swim out into the ocean near the shore and entice the bullies. When the bullies see the seal, they rush into the water and paddle towards it in their qajait (kayaks) in order to hunt it. The grandmother tells the seal to appear in the bullies’ weak spots - at an angle where she can not get harpooned - and bring them into the deeper water. The grandmother tells the seal, “When the water is deep and rough, rise to the surface, raise your hands and call for the weather that existed on the day you were born.”
The seal does as she is told and a great storm causes the ocean to be wild. All the hunters capsize and drown except for Kiviuq. Kiviuq unsuccessfully tries to help his brother who was one of the drowning bullies. Kiviuq paddles away lost and unable to return to the camp. He was the only survivor because, as the grandmother noted, he had never antagonized her orphaned grandchild.
In our play, Kiviuq is played by three different actors. Each time the actors switch roles, the former Kiviuq gives the new Kiviuq the paddle to his qajaq (kayak) and his headband. We wanted to show the exchange of power and knowledge that is commonplace in our communities – we learn our culture, language and skills passed from one person to another, often without the support of institutions.
The actors sing Kiviurli Kisimilli at each of these exchanges. Refer to section 14, or the Epilogue for an explanation of this song.
This story of conflicted love is remembered and shared by Miriam Aglukaq from Uqsuqtuuq (Gjoa Haven).
Kiviuq returns to his tent after hunting by qajaq (kayak) and is surprised by the scent of delicious stew. Who had cooked for him? He sees heat rising from his tent’s vent and hides behind a rock to peek at the fire with the pot of meat boiling above it. A beautiful tiriganiaq (fox) darts between his tent and the food. She is nervous and keeps checking her surroundings. Astonishingly, Kiviuq sees tiriganiaq take off her fur and hang it outside to dry. She has become a human! A woman! Kiviuq jumps up, grabs tiriganiaq’s fur and runs away with it.
Tiriganiaq cries out to Kiviuq, “Give back my fur!”
Kiviuq retorts, “I will give you your fur back if you will become my wife. But if you will not marry me, I will not give it back.”
Tiriganiaq pleads, “Please give me back my fur!” She cannot live without it, as it is her identity.
Kiviuq refuses and again lays down his bargain, “I will only give your fur back if you marry me.”
Finally tiriganiaq agrees to marry Kiviuq and they become a couple – a human and a fox.  Kiviuq follows his wife everywhere she went. Out of devotion, he eats her excrement and urine as he follows. He is so very fond of her.
The Fox Song was especially written for Kiviuq Returns by Avery Keenainak and Abraham Etak
This is the first time I see something so beautiful
I find you so beautiful. Come here.
My heart feels so full
My spirit is shaky
I want to have a life together
Why can’t you understand?
What to do? Which way? How?
I want you. Please. Come here.
Look at me, I’ve become human
I don’t want to be this way.
In my own heart, I am a fox.
I can’t breathe
I want to have my own life
Why can’t you understand?
What to do? Which way? How?
I don’t want you. I will not come.
What to do? Which way? How?
Please? How? Why?
I don’t want you. I will not come.
What to do? Which way? How?

This is a continuation of the Fox story and is also remembered and shared by Miriam Aglukkaq. In our performance, the actors chose a different order of animals than Miriam’s telling: first a wolverine, then a wolf, a seagull and finally a raven.
Tiriganiaq and Kiviuq arrive at the tisi (animal den), to find it occupied by many other animals. Avingaq (lemming) comes out of the tisi and pleads with Kiviuq to have sex with her and marry her.
“Have me!” she begs, but Kiviuq only wants his tiriganiaq wife so he replies, “You have very little blood in you. I don’t want you.”
Avingaq retreats back into the tisi, telling the others who lived there, “He doesn’t want me because I have only a little blood.”
So then the little siksik (ground squirrel) tries to get the attention of Kiviuq.
“Have me,” says siksik.
“I don’t want you,” replies Kiviuq. “You have a very weak spine.”
Siksik returns to tisi also disappointed not to win Kiviuq’s attention. “Kiviuq says I have a weak spine,” siksik tells the others.
Then the qagvik (wolverine) decides to try and win the love of Kiviuq.
Qagvik asks, “Have me!”
“You’re disgusting and you stink,” says Kiviuq, not at all interested.
“Kiviuq says I stink,” says qagvik to the other animals.
Amaroq (wolf) then comes out of the tisi. She is very attractive and Kiviuq is interested in her, but he loves his tiriganiaq wife too much to actually chose amaroq.
“Have me,” said Amaroq. Kiviuq tries hard to come up with an insult for her and finally says, “Your nose is too long, I don’t want you.”
“He doesn’t want me,” says Amaroq to the others. “He says my nose is too big!”
Then it is tulugaq’s turn (raven). He hops out of the tisi and asks Kiviuq, “Have me!”
“No,” says Kiviuq. “You eat excrement and intestines. I don’t want you!”
Tulugaq returns to the tisi and says to the others, “Kiviuq doesn’t want me because I eat poop!”
Avingaq (lemming) comes back out and tells Kiviuq, “If you don’t want any of us then you must raise your hands, bend over backwards and enter the den walking backwards.”
Once Kiviuq enters the tisiavingaq pokes him with grass, “Poke him to make him bleed,” avingaq teases.
Kiviuq eyes adjust to the darkness and sees that all the animals live together and are all working away on making their beds. Kiviuq looks at his tiriganiaq wife and sees her snotty nose is frozen to the door of the tisi. Kiviuq spits at it and pulls her nose free. He tries to stay close to tiriganiaq, but she keeps moving away from him whenever he gets near.
Kiviuq wants to leave but avingaq convinces him to stay for a celebration of their relationship and organizes a feast. Amaroq brings in a nice caribou hip. Qagvik brings aged caribou that is nice and fat. “It’s stolen meat,” Qagvik announces to the others. Tulugaq brings in dog poop and intestines and the others order him to go outside and eat it by himself. So Tulugaq leaves with his food and says, “Aah” as he eats outside.
After they all eat, avingaq announces a song competition.
This story was also told by many elders. The bee is a very frightening insect to Inuit, perhaps because you can never be sure how much spiritual power such a tiny creature can contain.  The idea of a huge woman who was also a bee is even more petrifying. This version is told to us by Madeline Ivalu of Igloolik.
Kiviuq has been travelling for a long time. He is exhausted and many terrible things has happened to him. He finally arrives at a shore where there is a qarmaq (stone house) without a roof. He can hear the sound of someone scraping skins. He didn’t notice at first that all around him were human remains. When he gets to the qarmaq and peeks over he sees the Bee Woman scraping a skin. He had been told that if you are not sure if someone is a spirit, you should try to look at their eyes, so he spits at her head to get her to look up.
Iguptaq (Bee Woman) says, “What is that? I didn’t know it was raining.”
Kiviuq spits again and this time Iguptaq tries to look up but her heavy eyelids close every time she tilts her head upward. Frustrated, she pulls her terrible eyelid out and cuts it off with her ulu (woman's knife) and throws it in the stew pot! She does the same with the other eyelid. Now she can see, so she looks up and Kiviuq faints in shock at the sight of her grotesque face.
As Kiviuq lies on the ground, Iguptaq creeps over to him and says in a kind voice, “Just come to my house and lie down on the nice bed and rest. Let me take off your kamiik (boots) and hang them to dry.”
Hanging up Kiviuq’s kamiik, Iguptaq tells him, “Just rest here. I’ll pick some kindling to make a nice soup for you to eat.” And so she leaves to collect heather brush from outside. She intends to kill Kiviuq and put him in the soup pot!
On his own now, Kiviuq is awaken by a skull – the skull of his dead brother - who warns him, “If you don’t want to end up like me, run!”
Kiviuq tries to escape but the drying rack is enchanted and he cannot reach his kamiik.
In desperation, Kiviuq calls to his guiding spirit, nanuq (polar bear). He calls to nanuqthree times. Finally, nanuq appears, rescuing Kiviuq and frightening Iguptaq, who was ready to kill Kiviuq.
Iguptaq gives Kiviuq back his kamiik in a panic, but then chases after him. Kiviuq manages to make way to his qajaq.
“I’ll throw my ulu at you!” Iguptaq roars. She throws it, but it hits the water and causes the water to freeze.
Kiviuq, in his boat, is now stuck in the ice, so he picks up his harpoon and yells to Iguptaq, “I’ll throw this harpoon right at you!”
His harpoon hits Iguptaq. The harpoon also hits the ice, causing it to crack and allowing Kiviuq to paddle away from this awful place.
We step out of the world of Kiviuq for a moment to watch a woman nearly succumb to, but eventually overcome, a deep internal difficulty.
This poem was written in English by Taqralik Partridge for Kiviuq Returns. It has been translated into Inuktitut by Looee Arreak. 
You are always looking to climb
Up, up above the tallest tree
Up, up, past the highest peak
Up, up beyond the clouds to the stratosphere
To your own glory you would build yourself a monument
As high as the edge of the sky

But I, I bring the clouds to the ground
I, I, am always traveling down

In your mother’s womb I held you
Of your thirst I quenched you
In your hunger, you were fed
Through all your years I carry you
And when your days are over
I will take back your dead

I am lowly water
Poured out on the ground
I have no voice but what the wind gives me,
What the moon pulls out of me,
What the rush down, down, down
Into the earth can tell

My tributaries and my estuaries
My lakes, my creeks, my rivers
My disappearing glaciers
My mark upon the shore
The rain upon your face
The early morning dew
The sleet, the snow, the hail
The tide, the flood, the sneaking mouth
Of cracks climbed up in the ice
The mist lain heavy in the valley
My deepest sweetest wells
All these are me and I
Am them
From my fathoms to my swells

I will take your effluent
I swallow your brackish waste
I will wash through your greed
Suck up your grief
Course through your desire

The slick of your industry I let rest upon my seas
Your tailings in my ponds
Your poisons in my streams
In my depths I harbour particles
Of every discarded treasure
You thought you could never live without

I, I, bring the clouds to the ground
I, I am always traveling down

Build your monuments
Climb your towers
Pour me and pour me and pour me again

You will have your due
And I, will have mine.
This story was also told to us by elders from both the Western Arctic and the Eastern Arctic. It is amazing the same story is known by Inuit who have lived so far away from each other. Our version is told by Qaunaq Mikigak from Cape Dorset.
Kiviuq is old and married to a goose. They have children and he loves the family very much. When fall comes, Goose Wife tells him she has to have to leave him. Kiviuq does not want his family to leave. He wants to go with them.
His wife admonishes him, “You can’t travel south with us. We have to because that’s who we are. You cannot because you are not a goose.”
Goose Wife and the goslings fly around Kiviuq three times and then depart. Kiviuq tries walking after them, but over time he becomes very slow and starts to turn to rock. Lichen grew out of his skin as he slowly transforms into rock.
This is a traditional drum dance from the Ualinirmiut and Inuvialuit of the Western Arctic. The dancers mimic movements of geese as they begin to fly, clean their feathers, prepare their nests and communicate to each other.
Kiviurli Kisimilli remembered and shared by Qaunaq Mikigaq, Cape Dorset. We theorize that “asikkii” is related to the Greenlandic word “atsitsi!” which was the greeting used before “hello!” was adopted in the twentieth century. “Ijajaa”is a common refrain in Inuit music.
“I have heard and known about Kiviuq since I was a young child. Older children would tell me stories, and then I began to understand them. Now I am forgetting them. Kiviuq’s story needs to be heard now. There are always songs in the Kiviuq stories. There was a song that was sung to Kiviuq by one of his wives when she thought he was dead but then he returned to her. They walked towards each other singing this song. The song goes like this:
It was only Kiviuq
Who would say “asikkii!”
“Asikkii, asikikkii!”
“Asikkii, asikikkii!”
Ijajaa ijajaa ijajaa”

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