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Vinnie Karetak continues to celebrate Inuit culture through storytelling

“The sense of reclaiming the way we tell our own stories is very important,” says Inuk writer Vinnie Karetak. photo courtesy of Vinnie Karetak

Vinnie Karetak has worn many hats over the years to help preserve and celebrate Inuit culture. As a comedian, filmmaker, actor and writer, he has used storytelling to creatively share Inuit values, traditions and culture.

He was born in Arivat, but has been living in Iqaluit since 2001. He co-founded a production company called Qanukiaq Studios. However, he is better known for an Inuktitut comedy show named Qanurli.

The comedy show, which aired its seventh season in 2019, explored Inuit everyday life experiences, difficulties and misunderstandings between friends or family, said the comedian.

“And in the end, it's always about trying to work things out, talk things through and making sure that everyone's heard,” said Karetak.

In 2017, the Inuk artist wrote, co-directed and acted in a play called Kiviuq Returns: An Inuit Epic. The play was written by collaborating with Elders on story ideas about Kiviuq, a legendary hero of Inuit stories.

In the play this main character, who is born into hardship, travels through the Arctic encountering various adventures, said Karetak.

Besides the storytelling, Inuit culture is also explored through throat singing and props like sealskin kamiks and wolf fur.

“We took a lot of pride in this (play) because we want to be the ones to tell our own stories,” he said. “Being able to tell our own stories makes us feel valued and important.”

Karetak said the play was specifically created for an Inuit audience and is performed in Inuktitut.

He believes it is important to show, use and understand Inuktitut.

One factor that has motivated Karetak to promote Inuktitut in his work is “the bombardment of English in the entertainment industry.”

“It's all in English,” he said, adding it is important to have a scripted piece of work available in Inuktitut for others to imitate.

Karetak encourages young Inuit artists to not be afraid of telling their stories and reaching out to other storytellers for collaboration purposes.

“I encourage you not being afraid to tell your story in a way you want (it) to be told,” he said.

Karetak himself plans to continue using storytelling as a tool to both preserve and celebrate the Inuit culture.

Presently he is working on a script for a short film, collaborating with others to direct another play and looking into a potential television show.

“It’s always a dream to continue to work towards showing more Inuit culture,” said Karetak.