Artists Oleepika Nashalik, Talia Metuq, David Kilabuk and the Pangnirtung Youth Photovoice Project (with micky renders).
Since the 1950s, the forced resettlement of Inuit has transformed the Hamlet of Pangnirtung, Nunavut, from a seasonal outpost for semi-nomadic peoples to trade and hunt, to a permanent settlement of 1,500. Inuit have survived despite the tide of colonial settlers and successive governments that have forced their disconnection from land and traditional hunting culture, in the pursuit of establishing Canadian sovereignty and resource extraction. In today’s context of melting permafrost, extractive capitalism continues to be a driving force of colonization with the reactivation of the nearby Chidliak Diamond mine on a caribou migration route. Whatever increased economic dividends this might bring to the community, one thing is sure: more people and equipment moving temporarily from south to North, significantly more drilling and extraction, and inevitably – the creation of more and more complex forms of waste. Inuit cosmologies have maintained a harmonious relationship with the land for millennia, disrupted by decades of cultural imperialism. As Hird (2021) argues, this crisis of waste(s) is a symptom of rapid and ongoing colonization and is creating a health hazard for Inuit, all living beings and the environment.
This submission for Environmental Racism is Garbage, comes out of ongoing collaboration with Inuit artists in Pangnirtung, who are animating the lived experience of waste(s) (broadly defined) through their art. These works will be mounted in a travelling exhibition in the coming year.
Oleepika’s powerful and expressive art juxtaposes aspects of the traditional Inuit way of life with modern ways. Her scenes reflect how the two cultures are bound together. Here, she considers the contradicting material cultural shifts seen in her lifetime. Oleepika’s work expresses a range of emotions. Although seemingly playful at first glance, a lot is going on beneath the surface. As with many contemporary Inuit artists, her art is a by-product of outside influences on Inuit culture and is best understood in a historical and geopolitical context – something which we intend to expand upon in later iterations of the project.
David Kilabuk acquired his first camera in the mid-1980s – a Pentax. He was intrigued by the panoramic black and white photographs and portraits of Peter Pitseolak of Cape Dorset, who photographed his own community in the 1960s and 1970s. David is considered a leader in the community and has won several national awards for both citizenship and photography. His patience, skill and sensitivity as a photographer have for over 25 years resulted in iconic photographs of contemporary Inuit life and the surrounding natural world, appearing in National Geographic, Canadian Geographic, and other magazines. His work is requested by the news media, governments and Inuit organizations.
Talia Metuq is an Inuk game developer, artist and awesome auntie. She has been an organizer of the Makerspace movement in Nunavut and is the Community Engagement and Special Projects Coordinator at Pinnguaq Association.
From game player to game designer, she enjoys time with her family in her spare time, knitting, sewing, and going digital illustrations in Pangnirtung, NU. Talia studied at Fleming College and VCAD.
Micky Renders is a settler-Canadian Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Environmental Studies, Queen’s University, and a member of Canada’s Waste Flow, an interdisciplinary research team connecting people interested in the topic of waste. Her research aims to animate the issue of waste(s) in collaboration with Inuit artists in Pangnirtung, Nunavut. Her project seeks to use a decolonial framework that serves as an urgent call to action on Arctic waste(s), for which she was awarded the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Doctoral Scholarship. Her career as an artist/educator/activist spans over 20 years. She has earned national, provincial, and local awards in recognition of her accomplishments.