Sex, love and mask-dance workshops to expand across the Arctic
New funding from Public Health Agency of Canada pays for expanded workshops
Whether Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory is showing youth how to dance with a Greenlandic uajeerneeq mask or talking about the benefits of body-mapping, she sees performance art as a “realm in which young people feel affirmed in who they are.”
In March, Williamson Bathory became the first artistic director of Inuit theatre at Qaggiavuut, while still running the performing arts workshop Timiga Ikumajuq, or “my body, the light within.”
The workshop, which Williamson Bathory helped create in 2012, focuses on sexual health and healthy relationships.
“It is a very accessible program, where everyone participates at a level they are comfortable at,” Williamson Bathory said in a phone interview.
Now, with a new grant from the Community Action Fund of the Public Health Agency of Canada, Timiga Ikumajuq plans to expand its workshops around Nunavut and Nunatsiavut over the next five years.
“The funding will give us the capacity to travel all across the Arctic,” Williamson Bathory said.
And, with three new performance artists and three new facilitators on the team, Williamson Bathory said this will let others develop and deliver the workshops in many more communities.
They also plan to develop and implement a youth-led social marketing campaign featuring some of the messages from youth about sexual health and healthy relationships.
Since the program was first co-developed by Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre and Qaggiavuut at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit, the youth have celebrated Inuit storytelling, as well as performance and visual arts, to learn how to talk about personal relationships.
“That includes topics like bullying, jealousy, financial stress, peer pressure and consent,” Gwen Healey, Qaujigiartiit’s executive and scientific director, said in an email to Nunatsiaq News. “All of which are important factors in relationships.”
One of the ways the workshops help teens with this kind of expression is through body-mapping.
“You take a giant piece of brown paper, lie on it and draw with chalk on it,” Williamson Bathory said.
“Your experiences and your character. It’s a body-affirming and life-affirming activity that is very beneficial and intuitive for young people.”
Last week, Williamson Bathory and Healey trained the new staff on body-mapping and other hands-on practice of Inuit performance arts and songs, Greenlandic mask dancing, storytelling, as well as specific scenarios that might be raised by youth.
The workshops will re-launch this fall with the new artists and facilitators.
“There are always so many fantastic outcomes,” Williamson Bathory said.