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Inuit art in the spotlight in Montreal

A new Inuit-themed music exposition has opened at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
A 2005 carving by Mattiusi Iyaituk, born in 1950, titled ‘Power of Words,’ is part of a new exposition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Photo courtesy of MBAM/Christine Guest 2005−ᒥ ᓴᓇᙳᐊᒐᕐᒥ ᒫᑎᐅᓯ ᐃᔭᐃᑦᑐᕐᒧᑦ, ᐃᓅᓚᐅᖅᓯᒪᔪᒥ 1950−ᒥ, ᑕᐃᒎᓯᓕᖕᒥ ᐱᔪᓐᓇᕐᓂᕐᔪᐊᖑᔪᒥ ᐅᖃᐅᓯᕐᓂᑦ, ᐃᓚᒋᔭᐅᖃᑕᐅᕗᖅ ᓄᑖᖑᔪᒥ ᓴᖅᑭᔮᖅᑎᑕᐅᓂᐅᔪᒥ ᒪᓐᑐᕆᐋᓪᒥ ᑕᑯᔭᒐᖃᕐᕕᖕᒥ ᓴᓇᙳᐊᑦᑎᐊᕚᓗᖕᓂ.

A new Inuit-themed music exposition has opened at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

It’s titled Tusarnitut! Music born of the Cold. The display features a variety of art pieces, carvings and paintings, and is presented with Inuit music for ambience.

Included in the set are pieces from musicians Qumangaapik, Isapee Qanguq and Ujarak, as well as composers Nutarajuk, Qadulutsiaq and Iktuutaaluk. The sound clips present variations of traditional throat singing and drum dances/rhythms.

The exposition was created following a meeting between museum management and Jean-Jaques Nattiez, an ethnomusicologist and renowned teacher at the University of Montreal. He has studied Inuit music and hosted a conference at the museum on Nov. 23 regarding the way Inuit represented their music through their carvings and prints.

By explaining how the qilaujjaniq (drum dance) and the katajjaniq (throat singing) were represented through art, Nattiez hopes to share the beauty of Northern culture with the rest of the world.

In addition to the exposition, three group listening sessions to the traditional music are set to take place at the museum. The goal of the events is to create a friendly space for people to discuss what they see and hear and deepen their understanding of the Inuit culture.

On Dec. 10, Lydia Etok, an Inuit throat singer, will be sharing information on traditional music. Etok is co-director of the Indigenous relations department at Oktoecho — music of the Middle East, the West, and Indigenous music of Canada. She specializes in cultural sensibility between Northerners and southerners, from her experience working closely with the Makivik Society.

On Jan. 28, Sarah Siaza Carriere will share her knowledge of traditional music. Siaza Carriere grew up in Kinngait and studied sociology and environmental sciences in Ottawa.

Another musical event related to Inuit art is taking place at the museum on Feb. 10. Heidi Aklaseaq Senungetuk, an ethnomusicologist and violinist from Alaska, is presenting a concert-conference called Qutaanuaqtuit: Dripping Music.

It’s not the first time the museum has presented Inuit art through its galleries. In 2020-2021 an exposition titled “Ecology: Ode to our Planet,” featured art pieces from Qumaluk Tukalak, Isa Aqiattusuk Smiler, Osuitok Ipeelee, Jobie Inukpuk, Betsy Meeko, Henry Evaluardjuk, Nuyaliaq Qimirpik, Allie Kasudluak, Jimmy Inaarulik Kadyulik, Peter Inukshuk, Joanassie Ragee and Peter Sevoga.

The museum also possesses a permanent collection of Inuit art on the fourth floor of the “Claire and Marc Bourgie” pavilion.