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Guide To Nunavut’s Famous Alianait Arts Festival

Visiting Nunavut is an exciting adventure for the most curious and adventurous travellers. With a population of 37,000 people, and a landmass the size of Western Europe, it’s one of the most sparsely populated territories on the planet. Access to populated hamlets can only occur by air as no roads or train tracks reach the territory from the south.

The geography is otherworldly. In summer months, sunlight can linger for entire days. Rare berries, lichens, willows, arctic mosses, robust grasses, and willow shrubs dot the beautiful landscape. The wild species are enchanting: beluga, bowhead, seal, walrus, muskox, caribou, narwhal and polar bears.

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Photo: Alianait Arts Festival

As you can imagine, a landscape as unique as Nunavut’s has inspired and shaped a unique and robust community and culture. Art and music are important cultural elements in Inuit culture, and it can be seen in the bounty of art and music that is produced in the region. All of this is to say, if you’re going to make the trek to this special place, you’re going to want to get a sense of the artistic and cultural landscape as much as the physical geographic landscape. Few experiences will  provide one with such a holistic view of the arts and culture in the north as Nunavut’s Alianait Arts Festival.

The world’s circumpolar stage. It doesn’t mean that we’re only bringing circumpolar artists here, but there is a special relationship between Inuit, Greenlanders, and Mongolians, and those who live in the north, and we cater to that. – Heather Daley

Hosted in the northernmost capital city in Canada, Iqaluit, The Alianait Arts Festival is Nunavut’s largest arts festival.  Now in its 13th year of presenting music, film, storytelling, arts, dance, theatre, and visual arts, the festival has built a reputation around the world for not only its incredible lineup, but it’s unparalleled location. Running from June 30th to July 3rd, 2017, the festival lineup will show an eclectic mix of local, Canadian, and international artists playing a range of musical genres to entertain the city and showcase local acts and performers.

Photo: Alianait Arts Festival

Photo: Alianait Arts Festival

Throughout the week of the festival, one is able to tour the many significant historic and political sites in Iqaluit, experience the unique landscape, and meet with local artists, elders, and performers through workshops led by the Alianait Arts Festival.

The timing of the event is crucial. Not only because of the weather but because of the opportunity to interact with local creatives. “We asked the community when they wanted it to happen,” says Heather Daley, “it’s in between camping and snowmobiling time. It doesn’t matter how exciting the festival is, if the community can go fishing, that’s the priority. The community is passionate about the land, so we listen, and because of that, the attendance is amazing.

Artists and festival-goers often reverberate about the unique interaction of local artists on stage with musicians from all over the world. While other festivals call them “workshops” Alianait Arts Festival has open jams in an elders meeting space in Iqaluit where festival musicians and the general public can take part in throat singing workshops, drum workshops, and more. Anyone is allowed to join in and listen and learn, or even come with their guitars and play along. This unique and open format fuels impromptu unorganized micro-events, in which festival musicians will perform in the evenings outside on the tundra around bonfires.

Greenlandic mask dancer workshops are a regular event at Alianait’s big top tent.




2017’s festival schedule has only been teased so far with the promise of an emerging band from Greenland and Canadian folk musician Joel Plaskett and his father making an appearance.

Iqaluit, Nunavut is a vibrant and dynamic community with an incredible network of creatives, artists, musicians, and knowledgeable and kind residents. Alianait Arts Festival harnesses this energy and amazingly creative environment to not only showcase music and art but moreover the entire territory. If you’re going to take a journey to Nunavut, there may be no better festival or time to visit.

Thinking about planning a trip to the festival? Here are 5 things you should know: 

When to go: June 30 to July 3, 2017

How to get there: The best option to get to Iqaluit is by plane. Airlines that fly to Iqaluit include First Air and Canadian North. Regular flights to Iqaluit, NU depart from Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton, and Yellowknife.

Where to stay: Hotel Arctic, Frobisher Inn, Discovery IqaluitCapital Suites, Beaches B & B and Nunattaq Suites.

What to pack: Multiple layers are required, even in Nunavut’s short summer season. The summer season in Nunavut is equivalent to cool spring or fall conditions in southern Canada or Northern USA. Bring sunblock, good quality sunglasses with UV protection, rain gear (top and bottom) and good quality footwear for ankle support. VISA is the most widely accepted credit card in the region, although other cards may be honoured too. Most Nunavut stores provide credit card sales service plus ATM cash withdrawal service. Visitors should also bring along some Canadian currency. Mobile phone service is available in select communities. Bell Canada is the only satellite service provider. Pre-paid calling cards are available at many convenience stores but check with your hotel to ensure you have a land line.

Staying Longer: With so many amazing things to see and do inIqaluit, you may want to stay longer. Be sure to explore the arts and culture in the area  including the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum in addition to the incredible wilderness adventure and sightseeing opportunities. Before departing for your trip, a call to the Unikkaarvik Visitor Centre will provide you with the information you need to maximize your stay after the Alianait Arts Festival.
Like this post? Check out 3 Iconic Experiences In Canada’s North and Discover The Best Of Iqaluit With Help From The Jerry Cans, too!

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