Quniqjuk, Qunbuq, Quabaa
Quniqjuk: indistinct horizon, hazy
Qunbuq: brightness on horizon indicating presence of ice on ocean
Quabaa: split things that are frozen together
In the early twentieth century, pioneering photographer and filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty traveled north to the Arctic where he made a series of portraits and films of local Inuit people using the technology of the time – namely, seal oil lamps, to illuminate their faces during the dark days of winter. Inspired by Flaherty’s work, Donald Weber travelled to Igloolik in Nunavut Territory to make his own series of portraits that would also speak to the modern condition of Inuit society.
During a sitting at Ataguttaaluk High School in Igloolik, Weber photographed each participant using whatever technological device they had on them (mobile phones, games, television screens, etc.) They present a generation on the edge of a radically changing world.
As Weber explains – “In the Arctic language, there is a word, quniqjuk, which means the indistinct horizon of the unknown future. Standing in the snow, amidst this indistinct horizon, Zacharias Kunuk, in his soft spoken, yet very blunt way, offered this: ‘The Inuit are the only people to go from the Stone Age to the Digital Age in one generation.’ What happens in one generation, what happens when ‘The System’ (as Kunuk called it) makes it’s appearance at the proverbial ice edge?”
This work was originally commissioned by Canadian Art and exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).