The IkKaumajammik project was inspired by Tim Borlase and Martha MacDonald’s long-time interest and participation in the Labrador Creative Arts Festival, which has brought together Labrador youth to work with visiting artists and to present their original plays for the last 45 years. It was also partially motivated by Johannes Lampe, the president of Nunatsiavut, and his interest in forming adult drama groups in the five Nunatsiavut communities to increase positive community experiences and mental health awareness. Together with Tradition & Transition, Martha and Tim have been working with interested community members to write and perform plays since 2017.
Nunatsiavummiut youth were hired as assistant theatre directors in each community. A part of their job was to recruit adult participants to form a troupe of actors, to help to spread the word, and organize group sessions. The performers, some of whom were alumni of the Labrador Creative Arts Festival as well as those new to the stage, joined together to create scripts based on their interests and experiences. Tim spent three weeks in each community to mentor the group and the assistant directors.
The result of the work in each community was a diverse set of plays that were collectively written by each cast and that reflected the unique style and messages of each group. In Nain, the cast was all-female, and the production dealt with the many aspects of the lives of women in that community. Each performer wrote and performed her own scene to contribute to a script that presented the life of one composite character in the community. In Makkovik, people were dealing with terminal illness in the town and the troupe decided to create a musical to lift community spirits, drawing on their own performance traditions to enhance their production. The resulting play was about organizing a Canada 150 celebration and its effect on a volunteer committee whose decisions lead to hilarious consequences. In Postville, stories from Them Days Magazine were used to explore the community’s history, creating a series of vignettes that celebrated the resourcefulness, work ethic, and storytelling traditions of their community. In Rigolet, the cast worked together to create a message about their concerns around climate change and included their expert knowledge of their environment to talk about its effect on the sea ice. In Hopedale, the troupe used a method of taking turns writing lines that combined their interests in local artifacts, participation in the Cain’s Quest snowmobile race, and the community’s preoccupation with bingo.
The project has been a huge success and has helped to revive interest in the creation and performance of plays in Nunatsiavut for people with previous acting experience as well as for newcomers interested in the dramatic experience. Several performers have expressed their interest in continuing to perform in the future, and it is hoped that part of the new cultural centre in Nain will feature the creation and performance of these plays as well as new ones as part of its programming.