A feast for the eyes, ears and belly
Storytelling night comes complete with pictures and piles of food
The darkened Parish Hall was illuminated by menacing images of Mahaha The Tickler trying to drag a young girl under the ice, as Celina Kalluk told the legend to a dwindling crowd as part of the Alianait arts festival in Iqaluit this past week.
As Kalluk read the story in Inuktitut, black and white drawings by her brother Babah Kalluk illustrated the story scene by scene, while another screen provided an English translation.
This new way of sharing traditional stories was exactly what the story telling and community-sharing event on Tuesday was hoping to blend with more traditional storytelling.
“That was the first time we did that,” says Kalluk. “The presentation just came about and I thought it was really cool to use the images. We’re definitely planning to do more.”
The evening began with a crowd of more than 75 gathered to feast on country food. Once everyone was full, their attention turned to the telling of tales and legends.
Many of the children became restless, pillaging leftover cupcakes and running around with fistfuls of coconut cookies stacked four and five high.
But Kalluck was not disheartened. “It was the first one,” she says. “People thought it was very big, which is a very modern idea. Stories used to be told to smaller groups in igloos and the children had nothing else to do and they would sit and be fascinated.”
Grade 9 student Sarah Mike was one of the younger people who sat and listened to the stories. She said that although she had heard one of the stories before, the others were all new to her.
This is why Kalluk feels it is important to present stories, and the lessons and experience that they express, in a modern way that will engage children who grew up with television and countless distractions. “Little kids like it when things are animated, but with Inuit stories it is more about the beautiful words,” Kalluk says.
The crowd was treated to a range of storytelling by elder Mary Ann Pujuat Tapaqti from Iqaluugaarjuk, who told a story in Inuktitut; the animated tales told by Laakkuluk Williamson that are rooted in her Greenlandic-Canadian traditions; Solomon Qajaaq Awa, who spoke in English and Inuktitut;and Nancy Dobbins from the southern U.S., who told tales from her Cherokee heritage.
By the end of the evening legends and lessons of why people are different, how a physically smaller man can win with his wits, how the sun and the moon were created, and why turtles have a cracked shell were shared.
“I think that the storytellers night will just get better,” says Kalluk.