Wednesday, September 14, 2011

leadership through laughter

we spent yesterday afternoon at the elders' kammuk  - - their community centre.  It was a beautiful introduction into the special relationship that the Inuit have with their elders.  They are respected and the goal is to ensure their participation.  We discovered the Inuit love of games....many involving simple competitions that anyone can play...often using a pair of dice.  But some of the games were designed to hone skills - - such as the game with a small object suspended from the ceiling, pierced with holes.  Participants were handed sticks with sharpened points, and the goal was to successfully penetrate the small hole in the middle of object.  The game was designed to develop harpoon skills. One of our members proved particularly adept at this....and I wonder how he might capitalize on this new-found talent in his daily life as a senior public servant!

We were treated to some amazing Inuit legends told by a master storyteller from Greenland.  Inuit myths (at least the 3 we heard) are dark and disturbingly beautiful.  I heard a new version of the Sedna legend...the goddess who rules the waters and the animals of the water, with her long tangled hair, and chopped off hands.  

We had a demonstration of Inuit carving by a master carver (outside, my feet froze!) He showed us the evolution of the tools used by the Inuit, and the various types of stone used.  His work was beautiful.

But what impressed me most was the absolute inclusion of the elders.  The respect shown them, and their absolute joy in participating was such a marked contrast to our "southern" Canadian approach.  Here, the community had built a beautiful building, overlooking the bay, sun-filled and practical, and it was a place of welcome. 

Afterwards, we went to the cultural centre, for an overview of the Inuit artistic tradition, which is a rich one.  The belief is that everyone has creative talent, and that it just requires practice and an openness to learning.  And we had a brief opportunity to contribute to the local economy at their gallery gift shop.  I did my best!

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