New Montreal community centre named after Nunavik novel, Sanaaq
“I think it’s really something to be proud of,” says Makivik VP Maggie Emudluk
Family and friends of the late Inuk author Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk say they’re proud and honoured to see a new arts centre named after the region’s best-known novel, Sanaaq.
City of Montreal officials have opted to name a cultural and community facility the Sanaaq centre after the title and heroine in Nappaaluk’s 1950s novel. The new facility, scheduled to open in 2023, is being built on the former site of the Montreal Children’s Hospital, located near the city’s Atwater metro and Cabot Square.
The novel Sanaaq focuses on the life of a young widow of the same name, who tells the story of an extended Inuit family and their day-to-day life and activities pre-settlement: repairing clothing, building seasonal shelters and harvesting food. The book was originally written in Inuktitut syllabics and later translated into English and French.
“Mitiarjuk really put us out there, who we are as Inuit – the language, the traditions,” said Maggie Emudluk, a friend of the family and vice-president of economic development at Makivik Corp.
“I think it’s really something to be proud of.”
Nappaaluk’s daughter, Qiallak Nappaaluk, is now mayor of Kangiqsujuaq, the Nunavik community the author lived in until her death in 2007.
Despite early reports that the Nappaaluk family wasn’t consulted by the City of Montreal about its plans, Emudluk said family members were contacted and consented to the city naming the building.
“This is an honour for them,” Emudluk said. “They are all looking forward to going down to visit the centre, once all these COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.”
The Sanaaq centre will serve as a community and cultural centre, featuring an auditorium, exhibition space, café and library.
For its part, the City of Montreal said a committee selected the name to create a permanent link to the Inuit community living in the area.
“The choice of this name is faithful to the spirit of the centre by promoting Indigenous culture through its programming and collections,” the city said in a statement on its website.
In Inuktitut, the root word “sana” means to make, create or to build something by hand.