Qaggiq Time: Iqaluit arts group brings back Inuit tradition – with an eye to the future

The Qaggiq that towered over the land in Iqaluit over the weekend is a testimony to Inuit everything.

Architecture, engineering, art and culture all come together when you build an igloo big enough to host a party.

Qaggiavuut are a Nunavut group trying to build a performing arts centre in Iqaluit.

To draw attention to their efforts, they decided to build a traditional performing space, a qaggiq. It has been a very long time since anyone saw one of those in Iqaluit.

When asked, “When was the last time we had a qaggiq in Iqaluit”, Qaggiavuut Executive Director Pitseolak Pfeiffer had a simple answer, “Never.”

Qaggiq were built traditionally on the land when groups of Inuit wanted to spend time together with other families.

It took 12 men around four days to build this 65 square metre igloo. Even though performances started on Saturday, they were still putting the last parts in the roof Sunday morning. It started with Pfeiffer pitching a plan to Iqaluit igloo authority Solomon Awa.

After starting with Qaggiavuut, Pfeiffer says he asked himself, “Have we ever built a traditional qaggiq?” The answer was no, so he began to think on it.

“The idea stuck in my head,” said Pfeiffer, “I approached Solomon Awa, and asked if this is something we can do together? He hesitated, and a week later he said, OK, let’s give it a shot.”


Indoor gatherings have been very limited in Nunavut, due to COVID-19 related conditions.

This outdoor project got a thumbs up from Nunavut’s chief public health officer, and 100s of Iqaluit residents dressed up for the seasonable -20 C temperatures and flooded the site all weekend.

Musicians, drum dancers, a play; the weekend had something for everyone.

“I think we all really needed some good news,” explained Pfeiffer. “Coming out of the winter of the pandemic and the year; all I wanted to make sure was that people could celebrate. Celebrate life, celebrate Inuit culture.”

Pfeiffer added that lobbying for a performance space in Iqaluit was a good way to celebrate and educate. Nunavut leads the country in percentage of the population who make their living from the arts, and is the only province or territory without a performance space.

“Bringing awareness is what we really need here,” said Pfeiffer.

“Qaggiavuut has been advocating for an actual real performing arts centre in Nunavut, I hope this brings out the issue.”

They plan to try this again next year, and will learn from the challenges they have faced already. It took them a day longer than planned to get the very top on the qaggiq in place.

“The cold at the beginning,” explained Pfeiffer. “It was so bitterly cold, and really having enough human resources to pull this off. It was just a matter of just plugging away, every day, as long as we could.”

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