Monday, May 9, 2011

well HELLO there, winter!

Let me just get this over with - this was what it looked like yesterday when I went on my walk.

Ummmmm. Brisk, yes. Springtime - not recognizably so.

I have been here for a week, and what a week it's been. Unbelievable full and busy, lots of organizing and getting my feet on the ground. The program is popular again this year - with a bunch of kids returning and bringing along some new kids too. On friday we had 29 kids - which is one less than we had all month last year. That feels pretty great.
We worked on paper plate masks, played some theatre games, got used to working together as a group and taught the new folks what kinds of things might happen and are expected. Here are some snapshots of those processes.

Ahhhh, paper plate masks. So versatile, so fun, such a good way to ease into puppets and masks. We worked on simple interactions as our mask characters, and laughed a lot.

And now - no post about the North would be complete without gratuitous snaps of tundra life. Here you go.

While it is really amazing to be up here, and I feel lucky that I'm familiar with some of the aspects of life in the North, being up here is pretty challenging. I'm staying with a teacher at the school, and am friendly with many of the teachers up here, and run the program in the school (this year I'm sharing the classroom with the Survival teacher, who takes kids out onto the tundra on excursions and teaches them both modern and traditional techniques of hunting, fishing and living on the tundra in all seasons. He is amazing and taught me about caribou matresses last week) I get to see a lot of how the school system works here in Inukjuak. Having been immersed up to my eyeballs in educational theory and the critique of educational systems in particular this year, I am really struggling with the way things are implemented in the school here. It's hugely complicated and involves historical, cultural, political and educational dynamics that I'm not equipped to plot out clearly in a itty-bitty blog post today, but suffice it to say the school system is limited and doesn't really even attempt to work with the kids it is supposedly serving. Teachers do the best that they can, but are working against a dizzying array of extrinsic and intrinsic obstacles - and when I think about it too much I wanna throw up. So maybe I'll stop.

There are some great aspects to the school here - the fact that from Kindergarten to Grade 3 classes are taught entirely in Inuktittut to help preserve and promote the language, and the way special programs like ours are supported and welcomed in. However, with the weight of history, oppression and exploitation leaning heavily on a system that's not that responsive to the needs of the kids and community, the school up here is kinds of a majorly depressing place. Thank god for the kids, is all I can say --- they do the best the can and are often smiling and happy to engage with our art and goofiness.

I feel pretty lucky to be up here, all in all. People are welcoming and there are a number of teachers here from last year, so we get to reconnect and reknew friendships. The tundra is as captivating and breathtaking as always, the air scouringly clean and chilly, the sky either opaque with glowing clouds that do funny things to perspective or startlingly luminous blue. The sun is HOT and somehow feels closer, amidst all these fields of snow and rock.

Tonight we're going to start making rod puppets - I think that these will be our main form this year - and I'll let you know how that progresses. If you want to, you can also follow our goings on on facebook at Nunavik Theatre Arts Program

This is where I'll leave it today - struggling with my overactive brain. Hope you're all well and enjoying the sunshine wherever you are!!

Nerd out!

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