CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – “Before we were named, before we were labeled, even before we belonged” are the first words the audience will hear at the beginning of Susan Aglukark’s show, happening in the Homburg Theatre Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Those words are meant to set the tone for her performance.
“If there is anything that you want to know about Inuit people, coming to my show is a good place to start,” says Aglukark. “I’m sharing what I have learnt so far.”
Aglukark is one of Canada's most unique Indigenous artists. Her latest album tells the story of her Inuit ancestors’ journey, a journey that she couldn’t describe until 10 years ago. Like many other Indigenous people, she struggled to feel a connection to her ancestors.
“I finally acknowledged that I had lived most of my life in a constant state of fear that I was lesser than everybody else,” describes Aglukark. “I use the Inuktitut word Ilira to describe it”.
There is no English definition for the word, but Aglukark defines it as emotional discombobulation. She overcame her fears by realizing that she had the power to set the tone when speaking about her ancestors. She calls it making cultural connections.
Aglukark plans to give the audience a full sensory experience during her show through her songs and projected images on stage, to help tell the story of her Inuit ancestors, a story that she believes started long before her people were called Inuit.
She acknowledges that her tour is happening during an exciting time for Indigenous artists now that the Canadian government has begun the process of reconciliation with Indigenous people.
“I believe it has allowed us to move into the healing stage as Indigenous people,” explains Aglukark. “Part of that healing is reconnecting to our culture and part of my responsibility as an artist is to practice connecting Inuit people to the past.”
Aglukark appreciates cultural organizations like the Confederation Centre of the Arts that help to set a positive tone before shows, by stating at the beginning of each performance that the audience is standing on traditional Mi’kmaq land.
“Acknowledging Indigenous people on their lands is a powerful symbol of intentions,” says Aglukark. “It sets the tone of we’re here with a good heart and it helps to remove the tension in the room. As an Inuit artist I can’t do the work I do when we’re always in opposition.”
Tickets are still available for the Jan. 27 Charlottetown concert at: http://www.confederationcentre.com/en/show/370-Susan-Aglukark
This tour is part of the Atlantic Presenters Association and RADARTS' Canada 150 Performance Series.