Quniqjuk: indistinct horizon, hazy ...” Qunbuq: brightness on horizon indicating presence of ice on ocean Quabaa: split things that are frozen together
Quniqjuk, Qunbuq, Quabaa, 2012 | Surround yourself with snow, and a horizon, and I think most of us would shrug our shoulders and trot off, to where, I’m not sure. One of my favourite quotes was by the author and traveller Bruce Chatwin, who, in the early stages of his career as an art appraiser of Impressionist paintings at Christie’s in London, suddenly found himself blind. Perhaps he was squinting too much at all those pointillist dots on canvas, extracting to his best knowledge what all those tiny dots really meant. Sitting in his doctor’s office, now only seeing black, the good doctor prescribed the best medicine, in one simple word – horizon.
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, filmmaker 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 Zach called it) makes it’s appearance at the proverbial ice edge? A once semi-nomadic tribe, subsumed by the light of the global future - iPad’s, mobile phones, televisions - this new light, not the light of the seal oil lamps so favoured by Robert Flaherty in the 1920’s, has come. What is the new Inuit reality?
Qunbuq is the Inuit reality. It means "the brightness on the horizon that indicates the presence of ice on an ocean." The presence of ice means the presence of life, the existence of life that exists between the frozen land and the open, dangerous sea.
No one knows how many words they have for snow, (one answer is over three hundred), but these mobile, affable and once nomadic people have 25 words for travel, including travel where you have no real goal in mind, where one seeks to “split things that are frozen together” – quabaa.