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Sunday, October 27, 2019

Tanya Tagaq at Literature Matters 2019

The fifth edition of the Literature Matters The third annual Literature Matters – the Avie Bennett Chair in Canadian Literature Lecture Series featured Karen Connelly, and Tanya Tagaq. Connelly is a renowned novelist, poet and a travel writer, and Tagaq is a Canadian Inuk throat singer, novelist from Nunavut. Smaro Kamboureli, the Avie Bennett Chair in Canadian Literature, moderated the program. Connelly read from Handwriting Memories and Tagaq spoke about Unknown Bones.

I have participated in all the five Literature Matters readings and interviews since 2015 when it was launched, and without any doubt, I’d like to say, as emphatically as possible – and without belittling the contribution of the all the authors who have participated in this series to Canadian literature – that Tagaq’s chat with the audience was the most original.

All authors who have participated in this series have all made original presentations that often also included an A/V component. Dionne Brand (2018) and Madeline Thein (2016) were expectedly amazing, and Tagaq this year has set the benchmark higher.

I am producing an extract from her chat below:

I am from Cambridge Bay. I am Inuk. My father is English. He was the product of two World Wars Two veterans. He immigrated to Canada when he was three years old. He was born in England. He immigrated to BC. He went looking for work and ended up doing geological service work for the Government of Canada off an island in Halifax. They offered twice the pay to work in Resolute Bay, which is where my mother was relocated. My mother was born and raised in an igloo upon an island.  And this is what a lot of people don't understand about the colonial processes that the very high Arctic affected people in many ways. So, like notoriously now, Inuk women give birth very quickly, because we have unassisted birth to millennia. And my mother, being raised in an igloo was pockmark until she was 12 years old has full access to the land and the sophistication that comes from that knowledge. She's a magic person.

I love her so much. So, she was relocated by the government along with the people from Northern Quebec, because the Canadian government needed to establish mineral and water rights throughout the Northwest Passage. Without that, we would have been overtaken by other people. So, they needed Inuit or Canadian citizens to be placed into communities. And they did that through the relocation. They did that through killing our sled dogs. They did that by forcing us into Christianity. They did that to ensure their capitalist benefits, which seems to be the demise of society right now.

With our ecological crisis and climate change, this attachment of us from ourselves from our land, who we are, how reluctant are you to turn around to a stranger tonight and bury their heart and confess your mortality? And to ask for help and love? How scared are you to accept yourself? And I think it's this disassociation from the land that has caused us to be living in a state of anxiety and lack of self acceptance.

My mother went on to lie and say she had a high school education and get a Bachelor of Education from McGill University. Fucking badass woman, she is so awesome. And my father moved to Nunavut when he was 19 or 20 and he had lived there ever since.

And this is what I mean about what we're, well what I'm going to monologue about basically is like, how do I cover all this? Talking about blood, and culture, talking about literature, art, talking about how we associate with each other, right now, talking all the time, about reality and how we live and how people judge each other. And what the dominant culture considers sophisticated and help people and Being a replication ultimately of how the universe expands and evolves.

I recently watch a documentary about galaxy – there’s a massive black hole that's sucking all the life back and use it to. And I was just thinking about the inhalation and exhalation of the universe of Big Bang. And what we're all doing here and how we're just this beautiful, perfect extension of the energy of the universe, and how foolish we are to squander it and how ridiculous we are not be thankful of our breaths.

How ridiculous we are to not realize that every single person in here has felt self-hatred, extreme desire, love, shame. Everybody refuses to lean on each other cuz we're just so dreadfully embarrassed of our bodies. Well, you know what? Not me. I'm not. I was put here to eat and birth and come and not be ashamed of my size of my age of myself of my thoughts. Nobody can take this from me because I'm not going to go into the grave ashamed of who I am.

And I was not born in sin and I refuse to think that there's anything wrong with me other than why most ridiculous novels. I am ridiculous. But I love myself so deeply and completely. And if anything, by the end of the night, if I could give you one thing, please just do your best to accept yourself and love yourself and leave this place knowing that you're so very lucky to be alive right now. And knowing that no matter how hard it is, your ancestors didn't survive for you to be ashamed of who you are.
Anyway, I sound like a fucking preacher.

To hear more, click here: Tanya Tagaq at Literature Matters

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