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NWT artists invade Whitehorse

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services
Monday, March 12, 2007

WHITEHORSE - From one end of Whitehorse to the other, Team NWT's artistic contingent stood out at the 2007 Canada Winter Games.

Artists from around the territory showed delegates from every province and territory what they could do in film, crafts, music and dance.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Paulatuk Moonlight Drummers Nolan Green and Colton Gordon-Ruben lay down the beat while their cohorts dance during the 2007 Canada Winter Games cultural festival in Whitehorse. - Adam Johnson/NNSL photo

Fort McPherson filmmaker Elaine Alexie screened her productions at Cinematic Territories, a festival celebrating Northern films at the Yukon Arts Centre.

Her film followed a gathering of artists from the Yukon and NWT in Ivvavik Park in the Northern Yukon, where they explored the land and gained inspiration from nature.

"I was changed as well," she said after the film. "Little did I know, I was one of the participants."

Also at the festival, Yellowknife filmmaker Terry Woolf showed off two of his films: The Dogrib Birchbark Canoe and Sila Alangotok: Inuit Observations on Climate Change. The latter followed climate researchers documenting the concerns of residents in Pond Inlet as they faced changing weather, melting permafrost and an uncertain future... seven years ago.

Afterwards, Woolf discussed presenting films that were 11 and seven years old, respectively.

"It was really ahead of its time," he said of Sila Alangotok. "It's really interesting to see this stuff seven years later and it's still topical, it's still current."

At ATCO Place, a huge tented structure in downtown Whitehorse, the cultural festival carried on as Dene games raged away on the main stage.

In one corner, two tufting and beading artists, Julia Trennert, originally from Aklavik, and Lillian Wright, from Fort McPherson, worked diligently on their art, but paused to answer questions from fellow artists, interested onlookers and nosy journalists.

"They're really fascinated with how tufting is done," said Trennert of onlookers.

Both had joined a growing number of tufters and beaders framing their work, highlighting the time and artistry that goes into these "utility" items.

"It just looks nicer when it's framed," Wright said.

Meanwhile, the main stage featured the Inuvialuit drumming of the Paulatuk Moonlight Drummers and Dancers, who drew a strong crowd of all ages.

Afterwards, co-ordinator Debbie Gordon-Ruben said the cultural festival had kept them incredibly busy.

"I haven't seen any games yet," she said. "We've just been performing."

However she said she was looking forward to an upcoming performance at NWT House, the "NWT embassy," as some have called it.

Throughout the Games, the House has served as a meeting place for Northern performers and athletes, as well as for anyone else who passes by.

Filmmaker Elaine Alexie, who also served as host at the NWT House, said the venue had seen fiddle dancing, drummers and warm-ups for the Dene Games, which went a bit past the House's normal 8 p.m. curfew.

"The first week it was crazy here," she said with a smile.