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ᑐᓴᕐᓂᑐᑦ TUSARNITUT! Music Born of the Cold at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

ᑐᓴᕐᓂᑐᑦ TUSARNITUT! Music Born of the Cold at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Image: Kenojuak Ashevak (1927-2013), Guardians of Katajjaniq, 1992. Collection of Jean-Jacques Nattiez.© Reproduced with the permission of Dorset Fine Arts. Photo MMFA, Christine Guest

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
November 10, 2022 – March 12, 2023
Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion – Level 1

Montreal, QC – From November 10, 2022, to March 12, 2023, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is inviting the public to discover the breadth and diversity of Inuit musical expression in the visual and performing arts of the Arctic in ᑐᓴᕐᓂᑐᑦ TUSARNITUT! Music Born of the Cold. Bringing together artworks from the 1950s to the present, the exhibition presents, from a circumpolar perspective, a transhistorical exploration of the fundamental role music plays in Inuit life, while providing a rare opportunity to appreciate differences in style and content among artists and regions.

The practice of song and dance among the Inuit is inextricably linked to their environment, culture and lands. ᑐᓴᕐᓂᑐᑦ TUSARNITUT! (which translates literally as “pleasing sounds to the ear”) offers a glimpse into these art forms that are common throughout Inuit Nunaat (lands inhabited by the Inuit), an area that covers the circumpolar region, spanning Chukotka, Siberia, to Alaska, Canada and Greenland, and that is home to a population of more than 180,000. The exhibition proposes a discovery of these musical traditions and aims to show how they continue to shape Inuit culture today.

ᑐᓴᕐᓂᑐᑦ TUSARNITUT! presents over one hundred sculptures, prints drawings and installations themed around music by such renowned Inuit artists as Karoo AshevakKenojuak AshevakPitseolak AshoonaMattiusi IyaitukDavid Ruben PiqtoukunAnnie PootoogookKananginaq PootoogookJessie Oonark and Niap (Nancy Saunders). These works are drawn from the collections of the MMFA and the Avataq Cultural Institute as well as from local and international lenders. They are complemented by objects, artifacts, photographs, archival footage and music clips that allow the public to take in and appreciate the rich Inuit musical traditions simultaneously through sight and sound.

Two prominent musical genres are the focus of the presentation: qilaujjaniq (drum dancing) and katajjaniq (throat singing). ᑐᓴᕐᓂᑐᑦ TUSARNITUT! also highlights the cultural transformations and musical exchanges that occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a period when widespread colonial contact in the Arctic regions fostered Inuit adaptation of new instruments and musical ideas. These historical shifts provide a basis for highlighting the evolving appearance and function of contemporary Inuit art – forms of expression dedicated to the flourishing of Arctic Indigenous languages, art and musical practices and integral to processes of Indigenous self-determination today.

“We are very proud to present this groundbreaking exhibition celebrating the ingenuity of Inuit art and musical culture. Combining art history, musicology, and anthropology ᑐᓴᕐᓂᑐᑦ TUSARNITUT! puts Inuit voices forward, shedding new light on the importance of music to Inuit culture and highlighting the resurgence of Inuit musical traditions,” says Mary-Dailey Desmarais, Chief Curator of the MMFA.

“Throughout the exhibition, we have included rare archival films and music selections so that you can hear and see this rich musical tradition in action. It is our hope that the works and musical performances presented will enable deeper reflections on the perseverance and ingenuity of Inuit culture and people as they confronted the forces of colonization, which sought to suppress their music and voices,” adds Lisa Qiluqqi Koperqualuk, Curator and Mediator of Inuit Art at MMFA

“ᑐᓴᕐᓂᑐᑦ TUSARNITUT! in part presents works from a collection I built up over the years in the course of studying Inuit music. These artworks, which reference the musical output of Inuit peoples, have been integrated into an exhibition in order to introduce the public at large to the remarkable diversity of this culture,” explains Jean-Jacques Nattiez, guest curator of the exhibition, ethnomusicologist and Professor Emeritus at the Université de Montréal.

Program of activities
A series of events and activities inspired by the exhibition’s themes have been developed to provide an opportunity to learn more about Inuit culture. Two roundtable discussions will examine contemporary Inuit music and cultural self-determination through music. In addition, Bourgie Hall will present a number of concerts themed on the exhibition. On November 23, 2022, at 5:30 p.m., exhibition curator Jean-Jacques Nattiez will give a talk in French titled Qu’est-ce que la musique inuit?, illustrating the various dimensions of Inuit music. Three Traditional Inuit Music Listening Circles will create an inviting space to learn about the rich scope of Inuit musical practices, and the lecture QUTAANUAQTUIT: Dripping Music will showcase the work and talent of Alaskan-born musician Heidi Aklaseaq Senungetuk.

Further reading
Exhibition guest curator Jean-Jacques Nattiez is also the author of La musique qui vient du froid : arts, chants et danses des Inuit. Published in French by Presses de l’Université de Montréal, the 488-page art book offers an anthropological and historical look at Inuit musical culture and a panorama of its diverse expressions. With its references to a host of online recordings, videos and archival documents and its abundant iconography, this book is, above all, an homage to the immense artistic talent and musical virtuosity of these peoples who are born of the cold.

Credits and curatorial team
An exhibition organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. It is curated by guest curator Jean-Jacques Nattiez, ethnomusicologist and Professor Emeritus at Université de Montréal, and Lisa Qiluqqi Koperqualuk, Curator and Mediator of Inuit Art, MMFA, in collaboration with Charissa von Harringa, Curatorial Associate, MMFA.

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MUSKRAT Magazine

MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.

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