Posted to the Ethnos Project by on March 6th, 2012

When the time came a few years ago to find an Inuktitut term for the word “Internet,” Nunavut’s former Official Languages Commissioner, Eva Aariak, chose ikiaqqivik, or “traveling through layers” (Minogue, 2005, n.p.). The word comes from the concept describing what a shaman does when asked to find out about living or deceased relatives or where animals have disappeared to: travel across time and space to find answers. According to the elders, shamans used to travel all over the world: to the bottom of the ocean, to the stratosphere, and even to the moon. In fact, the 1969 moon landing did not impress Inuit elders. They simply said, “We’ve already been there!” (Minogue, 2005, n.p.). The word is also an example of how Inuit are mapping traditional concepts, values, and metaphors to make sense of contemporary realities and technologies.

Like shamans in the digital age perhaps, Igloolik Isuma Productions (, the acclaimed Inuit media-art collective behind the award-winning feature film Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner (Kunuk, 2001;, employs cutting-edge technologies such as high-definition video and wireless broadband to “travel through the layers” of time, geography, language, history, and culture. Isuma’s films, like the award-winning Atanarjuat, the 13-part Nunavut (Our Land) television series (Igloolik Isuma Productions, 1994-1995), and the upcoming feature film The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (Kunuk & Cohn, 2006), allow us to the see the living traditions of the past and demonstrate through their re-creation in film and video that Inuit are still able to practise them in the present. Isuma’s films extend the ancient art of Inuit storytelling into the digital age through video art and filmmaking, appropriating these technologies to present to the world a discourse from a distinctly Inuit point of view and thereby combating the historical media image of the Inuk as Other. In this media report, I hope to illustrate how Isuma “travels across time” through its films and videos and “travels across space” through its work with the Internet.

To read the rest of this article, please visit this page on the Canadian Journal of Communication site.

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