In the Field: Illusuak Cultural Centre A new centre celebrates all Nunatsiavut has to offer.
The establishment of the Illusuak Cultural Centre in Nain, Nunatsiavut, is rooted in the need for Nunatsiavummiut to have a place where culture, language, traditions, stories and experiences can be shared and celebrated, preserved and protected and revitalized and enhanced. The project, conceived in 2010 and scheduled to open December 1, 2017, has been described as a place for Labrador Inuit, about Labrador Inuit, by Labrador Inuit.
Illusuak is the Inuttitut word for “sod house”, the traditional summer home in Nunatsiavut, a concept that is reflected in the curving lines of architect Todd Saunders’ design. The name was decided after extensive consultations with elders and is appropriate because the facility is to be a gathering place. In addition to narrative and historical exhibits, the centre will also incorporate an audio-visual/performing arts theatre, a café, a gift shop and several offices. It will showcase all that Nunatsiavut has to offer and become a hub of activity, bringing people together to celebrate the culture and language of Labrador Inuit through exhibits, programming and special events. It will help bridge the generation gap between elders and youth, encouraging an open dialogue and the sharing of traditional knowledge. As Johannes Lampe, President of the Nunatsiavut Government, explains, “Illusuak will give our culture a home, bringing generations together to share experiences and expertise. [It] will honour our culture, encouraging all Labrador Inuit to continue our traditions— growing, evolving and carrying our knowledge forward for future generations.”
Illusuak will house permanent exhibits on our culture and history and is being overseen by the 10-member Illusuak Exhibit Advisory Committee, established in January 2015. The centre will provide opportunities for a variety of individuals and experts to develop both permanent and rotating exhibits that will highlight various aspects of Labrador Inuit history, culture and achievements in a way that will enhance and encourage connections between the often remote communities in Nunatsiavut. One such project, Faces of Nunatsiavut — Photographs from Within, is a large-scale photo installation that has been commissioned by the Nunatsiavut Government. The installation will be created from the archives of Nunatsiavummiut across the region, whose personal photos will be scanned and visibly displayed at the entrance to the permanent exhibit. Projects such as these will tell the Labrador Inuit story in such a way that the centre will be a compelling reason for visitors to explore and share their experiences of Nunatsiavut as well as the nearby, world renowned Torngat Mountains National Park.
The stories that will be told in Illusuak will make Labrador Inuit proud. By understanding where we came from and how we survived as a people, Nunatsiavummiut will have a better appreciation of who we are as individuals and as a culture continuing to evolve and thrive in a modern world, as echoed in our guiding statement for the project:
The strength of our ancestors Is the heartbeat of our land, Carrying us forward
Through seasons of change. We are the Inuit of Labrador.