Tuesday, February 16
The program today started with a talk and slideshow by Yaaka. Using his gorgeous photos taken while out on the land, he taught about many topics ranging from the wildlife native to Nunavik, to cultural practices such as spearfishing. In addition, Yaaka shared some incredible shots of the Northern lights, thereby proving how good photographers can manipulate their cameras to turn dark situations into something great. Yaaka is also a great example of how Inuk photographers can earn money selling their photos to magazines, while also representing Nunavik through the eyes of people who live and thrive there.
Next up Jessica, James and Yaaka spoke about how past traumatic events have negatively impacted the mental health of the community. Historical traumas - like use of residential schools and the slaughtering of the sled dogs – marked the beginning of widespread drug and alcohol use, as well as a suicide rate continues to rise to this day. James spoke about the importance of education so young Inuk can take over more senior positions in the region.
The night ended with a session of light painting outside. Everyone had a blast using their flashlights to create shapes and words, or moving their bodies to create ghost pictures. It was the perfect way to end off the day.
Wednesday, February 17
Our fifth day in Kangiqsujuaq started with a visit to the Pingualuit National Park interpretation center. We toured around this beautiful building, learning about the parks in Nunavik, the Pingualuit crater, flora and fauna native to the region, and traditional Inuit way of life. We then had the opportunity to look through old photos taken in and around Kangiqsujuaq, observing the changes in clothing and infrastructure over time.
Later, Patrick - along with Betsy, who translated English to Inuktitut - went on the local radio to talk about the working that we are doing, along with our plans for the upcoming days.
The program on this day was short and sweet. With church being held at 6pm, we chose three activities that would make the most of our limited time with the students.
We first lead an activity called “Earache vs. Psychache”. This involved writing down the word “Earache” on a sheet of paper, and brainstorming ideas associated with this condition. For example, earaches are painful, they can make you cranky, you can’t see them, you may not be able to get out of bed if you have one, and they will get worse if not treated. At this point in the activity, “ear” was replaced with “psych”. This helped us draw parallels between physical and mental illnesses. At the same time, it allowed for a discussion about the disparity between the amount of time people wait before seeking help for a physical illness (one participant said he would wait between an hour and two days) versus mental illness (some people wait weeks or months before starting treatment). In addition, unlike an earache, psychaches can be lethal if not dealt with as soon as possible.
The students then came up with three encouraging messages and wrote them down in Inuktitut. The messages were: “don’t give up”, “you are strong”, and “you are not alone”. Using the portrait photography skills they acquired in our session on aperture, they created portraits of each other proudly displaying the positive phrases.
Lastly we took a gym break, which included a quick talk with the students about self-care. When asked why we were playing sports in the middle of a mental health workshop, one student answered, “to practice teamwork”. Another chimed in, “supporting each other”. Both of these ideas speak to the strong sense of community amongst the small population of Kangiqsujuaq, and the importance of interacting with others to help them promote their own mental health. We then continued to chat about how exercise can make you feel happy and increase self-esteem, as can other self-care practices like adequate sleep, proper nutrition, taking time to relax alone or with friends, and making art.
We couldn’t have possibly concluded a days worth of work in any better way than to have stepped outside and be welcomed by the Northern lights. Our long day was ended with a lovely lady named Sarah teaching us about how to make bannock, a traditional fried dough treat. Stomachs full of Nutella, and brains foggy and tired, we headed to bed to rest for the upcoming day.
Thursday, February 18
Negative 43 degrees Celsius. That is what we were told the temperature was outside with the wind chill as we waited to embark on a dogsledding adventure. Two local mushers harnessed their beautiful huskies, readied the Skidoo, and off we went. The three of us sat on the sled as the dogs pulled it across Wakeham Bay, and around an iceberg that got stuck in the bay. The scene was right out of a movie, sun shining, snow swirling just on top of the ice below, dogs content to be working hard, and our guides kindly asking every so often if we were getting too cold (meanwhile they bravely faced the wind with no face mask or gloves). All exposed eyelashes and hair developed an icy coating.
For the photography part of the program today we taught about the concepts of white balance, light metering, and “breaking the rules”. We talked about how making a photo colder or warmer can affect how the photo is perceived. Warmer photos are often more inviting, while colder photos appear less friendly. The light meter can be adjusted to let more or less light in than the average setting that the camera defaults to, this is useful when shooting white Arctic landscapes.
We then ran an activity where we made a list of rules of how to make a “proper” photo. These included keeping your camera still when shooting, keeping your subject in focus, taking your lens cap off, and having fun. In order to unleash any more creativity that was previously trapped, we proceeded to break the rules we previously listed (except for “have fun”, of course that had to stay!).
Eric, our project videographer, gave an impromptu lesson on how to tell a story with video. The video can either be strung together from a sequence of shots, or done all in one take. The students were then challenged to tell a story in one take of under 30 seconds, and we got to watch their creations over a delicious dinner of shepherd’s pie.
We ended the day with a really fun and impactful “post-it project”. The students’ came up with 10 phrases in Inuktitut, and wrote them down on as many post-it notes as possible before running around the school to stick them on walls, desks, doors, and anywhere else they can brighten up someone’s day.
After the final remarks and goodbyes, Art with Heart’s Northern Lights project was brought to a close on a very positive note. Four hours in a plane, six hours in a bus, and two hours in a train later, we are just beginning to reflect on the past week as well as plan for all the exciting work ahead.