Singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark is bringing her “Winters Dream” tour to Atlantic Canada, with seven dates set for Newfoundland and Labrador, beginning Feb. 2 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
The tour, which ends Feb. 15 in St. John’s, will feature Aglukark with her four-piece band, including drums, bass, piano and guitar.
The first Inuk artist to win a Juno Award, Aglukark says “Winters Dream” is a chance to share the journey of her Inuit ancestors, and how this journey shapes and defines contemporary Inuit.
While Aglukark’s career so far has spanned more than 25 years, with awards ranging from honorary doctorate degrees to the Order of Canada, success has not sat easily with her, she says.
“There was this constant little voice that kept second-guessing, and (saying), ‘you don’t belong’… and I would say that that added greatly to a lot of anxiety around the career.
“This album was a personal exercise for me to see if I could get back in there and get past this voice, get past the second-guessing, get past the anxiety that that brings up, and it worked.”
She adds that growing up in Arviat, Nunavut, there was no opportunity to learn “who we were, the Inuit, from our own perspective,” explaining how various institutions told her who she was.
“And when you are told a story for so long, you learn to believe it.”
But over the course of two decades’ worth of reflection through her songwriting, Aglukark says, she began to learn more about her ancestors.
“Indigenous people in general, and in my case, Inuit people specifically, were a brilliant, organized society,” she said. “They had engineers, they had doctors, they had health professionals, they had systems in place to help manage their life and the different challenges in their lives.
“That’s the stuff that we need to go back to, to understand better who our ancestors were, and to identify better ourselves as Inuit in this new world — not as people who needed to be saved, but people who come from an incredible culture, and a history, and those are the heroes we need to be reading and writing about.”
She hopes that through her new album, also titled “Winters Dream,” and through these upcoming concerts, audiences will walk away with a better understanding of this.
The album is set for release in April, marking her tenth album to date, and a special one for her personally. She describes it as one that brings her story full circle, from being caught between the Indigenous and the western world, to a place where she finally feels comfortable with who she is.
Aglukark explains that “Winters Dream” is an idea that has been “percolating” in her mind for several years.
“Inuit often get asked, ‘Where did we come from?’ and the funnier question, ‘Why did we stay?’… A person needs to experience it to understand why we love the North so much, and all of its seasons. The land is such a big part of the people, forming and shaping who we are as people, and the seasons along with it … and ‘Winters Dream’ is just a play on, maybe — just possibly — winter chose us.”
However, Aglukark says she believes the Inuit are in the midst of a “culture crisis.”
“As Inuit, we know very well who we are, but the world is changing so fast, and so much, and so constantly, that our culture itself has not caught up with this change.
“And so, the more I’ve learned about the people, the more I understand our role as artists in creating that new culture that we can then pass down to the young generations, so they know who they are, and how they function, in their new Nunavut, in their new world.”
Aglukark’s work with youth is something that is near to her heart. Just this month, her Arctic Rose Foundation launched its first program called Creative Cultural Reflections, an arts-driven program for youth to explore their cultural backgrounds.
Aglukark explains that her hope is young people will use art as a form of self-discovery to reconnect with who they are as Indigenous people, in much the same way she has done throughout her career — most notably with this most recent work.
Tickets for Aglukark’s “Winters Dream” tour are on sale now at arts and culture centre box offices across the province.