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Three elders honoured for lifetime devoted to performing arts

At a public gathering the evening of Aug. 9, three elders received lifetime achievement awards from the Qaggiavuut Society for their outstanding contributions to the Nunavut performing arts.

Qaggiavuut is an organization dedicated to training and supporting Inuit performance artists, and building a performance arts space and school in the territory.

photo courtesy of Jamie Griffiths
Nunavut Commissioner Nellie Kusugak presents elder Susan Avingaq of Iglulik with a lifetime achievement award for her outstanding contribution to the Nunavut performing arts from the Qaggiavuut Society Aug. 9.
photo courtesy of Jamie Griffiths
Qaggiavuut executive director Ellen Hamilton explains to a full house at the Qayuqtuvik Food Centre in Iqaluit Aug. 9 why Sidone Nirlungayuq is receiving a lifetime achievement award for her outstanding contribution to the Nunavut performing arts.
photo courtesy of Jamie Griffiths
Madeline Ivalu of Iglulik is all smiles after receiving a lifetime achievement award for her outstanding contribution to the Nunavut performing arts. Nunavut Commissioner Nellie Kusugak and performance artist Christine Tootoo look on.

Susan Avingaq and Madeline Ivalu of Iglulik, and Sidone Nirlungayuq of Kugaaruk were each honoured, with Nunavut Commissioner Nellie Kusugak presenting them with their awards.

"This year we knew who was coming (to Iqaluit) for the pisiit project, and we've been wanting to give Madeline and Susan the award for a few years now because they are our advisors," said Qaggiavuut executive director Ellen Hamilton.

"They've been our advisors since we formed in 2010. Susan actually gave us our name. They come to every summit. They're among our 15 elders who advise us on everything we do. If we make any big decisions, we always check with the elders."

Both women also contributed stories for the theatrical performance Kiviuq Returns, which toured nationally.

The following are Avingaq, Ivalu, Nirlungayuq's achievements, as described by Qaggiavuut:

Avingaq is a film producer, director, actor, writer. She is a Genie award-winner for best screenplay, best art direction and best music. She tirelessly teaches youth Inuit culture through music and stories. She is an advisor to Qaggiavuut and gave the society its name. Qaggiavuut is a traditional term meaning come into the qaggiq that we build together.

An award-winning writer, director, actor, costume maker, Ivalu is one the greatest Inuit actors working in film up to today. She has received three Genie awards for best actress, best direction and best screenplay. Her latest film, Tia and Piujuq, will be released this year.

Nirlungayuq was one of the first Inuk actors most Canadians had ever seen on television as the beautiful young woman in the NFB's Netsilik Series. In the 1960s, Sidone portrayed what it was to be a young Inuk mother and wife in traditional times. Since then she has continued to share her culture and language through music and teachings – she has been a leader in her community's Inuktitut choir for decades.