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Laughter: Their Voice Not Ours


Laughter: Their Voice Not Ours

Eva Wu

Kangiqsujuaq Northern Lights Post-Project Reflection: Eva Wu

Eva Wu sitting by the bay that gives Wakeham Bay its name.

Eva Wu sitting by the bay that gives Wakeham Bay its name.

Never have I been constantly surrounded by the ringing of laughter for a whole week straight, day in and day out. It’s hard to get tired of it, in fact to me, it was what made this entire program completely unique.

Our first day, I distinctly remember walking into the community gym to play a game of impromptu volleyball with the local youth. The fluidity and understanding that travelled between each player was absolutely spectacular, a cohesive bond that a big city girl like me had never experienced. More important than anything, the entire game proceeded with next to no verbal communication, yet it was not silent. Laughter took the place of chatter. It is a place where words aren’t necessary to convey feelings, meanings, and stories. It is a place where there was mutual respect and love. 

Each day, regardless of how comfortable each student was with us Southern students, their chuckles between photography and mental health sessions helped lighten the mood. Though they were silent in terms of words, we were able to understand what they were feeling, as their giggles rang through the halls, emanating with curiosity. 

Each night Gabrielle and I would flip through hundreds of photos, sorting, cataloguing, editing. Eventually we came to the realization that the students focused their photos more on each other than their surroundings, prompting us to believe that they truly wished to capture each other’s joy and emotions in their lens. This further strengthened our confidence that these youth had the potential to use their images to extend their care and support throughout their community.

Eva's picture of the northern lights flickering over the complex that we stayed in.

Eva's picture of the northern lights flickering over the complex that we stayed in.

On our last night, I was informally interviewing Madeline and Jamie Yaaka regarding regional tourism for my report that I will be presenting at a Mock Arctic Council in Alaska this week. One particular perspective really struck me. They said that when tourists come to the community, they turn a blind eye to the addiction and health problems that the region faces. This raises the debate about how Northern communities should be portrayed to their Southern visitors. Often people only focus on all the issues, or all the cultural and natural beauty, but how could change happen if they don’t present all sides of reality? 

Walking into the project, we knew that we couldn’t tell the students' story. We didn’t know them, and we wouldn’t know them. A week spent in proximity with these youth would lead people to believe that we can grasp their feelings and stories, though it was quite the opposite. The longer we listened to their laughs and banters the more we realized that yes, any reporter can come in and write an article, but only these kids can tell the whole story. That, is exactly why we came. 

Their laughter and their voice is what the world needs to see. Our perspectives do not encompass their community, their world. The cameras and the tools we have placed in their hands are what we can provide them, but what they choose to do with them is the part that can allow people to see the life through their eyes.

-Eva Wu

PS. This is our first, and definitely not last, video created by Eric Foss about our experiences up North.