Arctic Snow, Shadow and Sky
As I take my evening walks in the mild winter snows of Thunder Bay, it’s hard to believe that only a few weeks ago, I was up in the Arctic. When I was little, I would close my eyes and try to imagine myself flying over the lake, across the waters, meeting up with the horizon and continuing on until I was flying over the snows of the Arctic. I don’t know why in my imagination I never flew south; always north. Now, as an adult, I still experience some of the thrill of flying to the edge of the world; that world of shadows and light.
While I was in Iqaluit, I attended the Pilriqatigiinniq Teachers Conference. It was an exciting week that included a talk from David Suzuki one night and a craft show on the following night. I was absolutely stunned at the level of excitement and energy that went into the craft show (and, of course, David Suzuki's talk). There was no shortage of vendors displaying everything from seal skin mitts to spices for Arctic char to beautifully embroidered and beaded wool hangings. It was the first time in my life that I’d seen people arrive an hour early to an arts and crafts fair. People were literally packed into the hall like sardines. I asked some of the city residents about this later and was informed that crowds always come out in droves for arts & crafts shows. So I can only conclude that hand-crafts are highly valued in this part of the world.
I love to make things with my hands. It always brings me relief from a technologically obsessed world to be able to pick up a needle and thread and hand stitch a quilt or sew on a button. To be in a space where the general community also celebrates handiwork, this was marvelous to me.
In our workshop, my co-presenter and I gave a workshop where we also created something with our hands and our imaginations; making shadow puppets one day and masks the next. We had brought in stories to adapt into simple tableau and shadow plays, but in the end, we invited the participants to share their own stories; in their own language. I felt truly honoured to hear the stories shared in Inuktitut. Even without the translations, I had a sense of what the storytellers were sharing, through their gestures and through their voices.
When I visited one of the shops later in the evening to look at the regional books, I wasn't surprised to see that many of the stories were illustrated in shadow or near-shadow images. Without trees to impede the view of the sky, there really are only a few noticeable elements to the landscape; shadow, shades of the many colours of snow, and sky.