Arviat’s popular Tunnganarniq Live show has been extended indefinitely after wrapping up its first six months of filming.
The community began hosting Tunnganarniq Live in January as part of the launch of Uvagut TV, Canada’s first Inuktitut-language television channel. The show was originally only supposed to run for six months but it proved so popular that it will continue. It’s broadcast live on Wednesday evening on Shaw TV.
“Arviatmiut, they were giving great feedback. When they are so enthusiastic like that we can’t close the door. We had to find a solution and we did,” said Lucy Tulugarjuk, managing director of Uvagut TV. “Arviat was so successful that we found another spot for them to continue their live shows.”
Nuatie Lucy Aggark hosts the variety show. She picks different Arviatmiut artists to interview each week. With the help of her husband Evano Aggark, who works as the cameraman and occasionally subs in as the host, the crew has interviewed guests such as musician Paul K. Irksuk, visual artist Monica Pingushat, dancers Shelton Nipisar and Malachi Paungalak, and chef Hattie Alagalak. They also broadcast a concert featuring local talent on national television in May.
“It’s pretty exciting to keep doing this. We can continue to highlight Arviat,” Nuatie said. “We are very happy to keep doing what we do and keep showing skilled and talented people.”
As longtime members of the Arviat Film Society, Evano and his wife had been used to filming projects, including programs for the local cable channel. Given their humble beginnings, Evano said it’s amazing they are now broadcasting nationally.
“It seems like nobody believed that we could make a TV show. No one would believe that we were aiming for the TV,” he said. “Out of nowhere, Uvagut TV showed up asking us if we could do a show and here we are with a national TV show.”
Maia Iotzova, project manager of Tunnganarniq Live, who helps produce the show from Montreal, said that despite a few technical hiccups in the first few months, everything has been running smoothly.
“We have a good well-oiled machine,” she said.
Inuktitut TV station 40 years in the making
Uvagut TV, which is available to anyone with basic Shaw cable, was launched by the Nunavut Independent Television Network (NITV). The Iglulik-based non-profit has been creating and disseminating programming locally on basic cable since 1991.
But when television networks began making the switch to high definition, there were concerns that the equipment wouldn’t keep up.
That’s when NITV started reaching out to potential partners, eventually finding one in Shaw.
“After several meetings and explaining that this truth and reconciliation covers protecting our language and our culture – part of that is the goal of Shaw, to have more Indigenous people involved. Once they learned that we were serious and know what we are doing, we signed an agreement. That’s something I will always remember,” said Tulugarjuk. “It was a lot of work. It wasn’t just our team. It was also our Elders involved in the NITV board. They never gave up hope.”
The channel broadcasts programming relevant to Inuit Nunangat around the clock, 365 days a year. Tulugarjuk said almost all of the shows are broadcast in Inuktitut, and those that aren’t are presented with subtitles.
Having such a channel is fundamental to the survival of Inuit, she added.
“This is our right, it’s our Inuit right. It’s in our protection to be able to switch on the TV and see Inuit speaking their language,” she said.
Iotzova said Uvagut TV is looking to expand its programming into other communities throughout Inuit Nunangat. While some experience with filming is preferred, Uvagut TV is able to offer training opportunities.
“If any community is interested to go live with us, we are happy to talk to them about that opportunity,” she said.