Puvirnituq students feel the art of victory

Students from Iguarsivik school worked for nearly a year on exhibition now hosted by national art museum

Nunavik teacher Nathalie Claude, top left, poses with her students Olivia Tukalak, Alacie Qumaluk, Matiusi Tulugak, Elaisa Ittukallak, Natalie Tukalak, Connie Ittukallak and Velesie Adams. In the front, from left are Justine Boulanger, who is the project manager for numeric education, teacher Sarah Tukalak and Akinisie Novalinga, who is the school principal. (Photo courtesy of Jade Bernier/Kativik Ilisarniliriniq)

By Cedric Gallant - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Connie Ittukallak says “we were clapping, we were screaming” after learning Monday that she and her Nunavik classmates had won the Essor Recognition Award for artwork they produced.

The art exhibition by Iguarsivik school students is displayed at the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec in Quebec City. (Photo courtesy of Jade Bernier/Kativik Ilisarniliriniq)

Their body of work, titled Tarratuutiq/Taima, which means “mirror” and “this is enough,”comprises 10 projects in areas such as painting, photography and video. The award was presented at the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec in Quebec City.

Twenty-five Puvirnituq students from Iguarsivik school participated by creating pieces that vary drastically from one another. Each piece had five to 10 students working on it for months at a time.

One piece, for example, was a video shot from a drone, shot over 15 days with almost 15 students working on it.

Their efforts were recognized with the Initiative Prize, one of the Essor Recognition Awards which are given out every year by the Quebec government ministries of education and culture.

“I feel honoured,” said Velesie Adams, a Grade 5 student who participated in the project. “I hope to get something like that again soon.”

Work on the project lasted nearly a year. For Ittukallak, it was a means to speak out about climate change.

“We have been experiencing it in our own little villages,” she said.

“They keep saying it’s all about the melting of the ice, but there is so much more to [climate change] than ice melting.”

Ittukallak and Adams both said the experience has made them realize how much they love art.

“Expressing my feelings about climate change was my favourite part,” said Ittukallak. She added that her classmate Adams “is an artist at heart.”

“I would love for it to be my hobby, even my career,” said Adams. “There is a lot of Inuit art in my village, and most of them inspire me a lot.”

Nathalie Claude was the teacher who guided the students each step of the way.

“When the museum approached us, I thought wow, this could be nice!” she said.

In discussions with museum representatives, Claude explained she introduced a concrete theme of discussing climate change with Inuit youth and “Bam, that’s where everything started,” she said.

All 25 students invested themselves fully into the project, according to Claude.

Sarah Aloupa, president of Kativik Ilisarniliriniq school board, said she is proud of the students and happy they were able to show their skills.

“We don’t usually see the opportunities students have in the south,” she said. “It is an eye-opener for our students, and I am sure it will encourage them to do better and continue their education.”

The exhibition will remain at the museum until June 2.

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