Canada: Close Call for Artcirq at Winter Olympics

Linda Matchan, for the Pulitzer Center
Vancouver, Canada

Two days before Artcirq's scheduled performance at Sunday's medal ceremony at the Vancouver Olympics, something went terribly wrong.

For months, the Inuit circus members had been dreaming of the moment when they'd take center stage at B.C. Place, proudly representing their Arctic territory of Nunavut before the world. "I have no words for this," said acrobat and clown Jimmy Qamuqaq, as he strode past the stadium on Friday, the day of the final rehearsals.

Nunavut: Two worlds collide

Linda Matchan, for the Pulitzer Center

Just fifty years ago, the people of Igloolik, Nunavut were nomads. Today, Linda Matchan reports from Igloolik, examining the young people of the Igloolik community who cope as tradition collides with education and the modern world.

“Bring Me a Seal!”

Linda Matchan, for the Pulitzer Center (Photos by Michele McDonald)

1runninglateRunning late after a break, one student rushes into Ataguttaaluk High School, while two other students are unconcerned about being late.

"Did You Say a Circus?"

Linda Matchan, for the Pulitzer Center (Photos by Michele McDonald

The other day, on a bitterly cold morning in Igloolik, Michele and I suited up in four or five layers and started walking to the airport to meet up with Artcirq, the Arctic circus. They were heading to Iqaluit to rehearse the show they're performing at the February winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Igloolik, Home of Artcirq, the Inuit Circus

The tiny Inuit community of Igloolik sits 200 miles above the Arctic Circle in Nunavut, Canada's newest territory formed in 1999 as the result of a land claims settlement. Igloolik is home to only 2,000 people, many of whom still live in a traditional way, hunting seal and caribou and hand-stitching animal skin clothing. It is stark, tight-knit, and beautiful, but also very poor and deeply troubled, struggling to adjust to the transition from nomadic life just 50 years ago to a modern digital world.

A Culture Cries

Linda Matchan, for the Pulitzer Center (Photos by Michele McDonald)

I'm here, near the top of the world, to write about Artcirq, an Inuit circus in the high Arctic region of Canada. It's an unlikely story: It was started by Guillaume Saladin, a circus acrobat from Montreal who'd spent summers here as a boy and wanted to return to help the community. A lot of help was needed. Life is tough here in Igloolik: people are poor and young people – including friends of Guillaume's – were starting to take their own lives.