Singer, Songwriter, Advocate
Susan is the first Inuk artist to win a Juno (3) and a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime artistic achievement, she is an officer of the Order of Canada, holds several Honorary Doctorate degrees and has held command performances; but Susan also acknowledges the path has not been easy.
“Here I was, living a life I never imagined, but I was struggling to understand who I was. There was no opportunity growing up to learn about who we were, the Inuit, from our own perspective. In essence, we were institutionalized by being told who we were, how we would live and when you are told a story for so long, you learn to believe it,” explains Susan.
During the past 25 years of reflection and songwriting, Susan kept coming back to one area of profound knowing, the Inuit are an extraordinary people deeply grounded in a culture forged by their Ancestors, their journey is what shaped them.
“Their life experience is the foundation on which our precepts of determination, adaptability and love for life are built, they began the journey to our present-day Nunavut.” (Susan’s Walrus Talks comments)
“The conversations around reconciliation have provided an opportunity to begin to re-write our narrative. The Indigenous people in Canada come from highly organized societies built on knowledge, process and organization – without which none of us would have survived.”
For Susan, art has played a significant role in her healing journey and in the re-writing of her narrative, she believes it plays an important role for indigenous youth who are dealing with contemporary identity issues today. “Our children and youth are strong and resilient, they still believe very strongly in their culture, in Inuit or Indigenous culture, and they are still fighting every day to find their place.”
“They need to be anchored to an identity and so much of those connections are in our ancestors and their stories and we have a duty and a responsibility to engage our children and youth in the process of connecting with and helping them write those stories.”
Susan has always been very open about how her own fears and personal trauma that left her disillusioned and disconnected. Born in Arviat, Nunavut, her parents formative years were in traditional Inuit culture, her formative years were not traditional and were somewhat disconnected from her culture.
Despite the success she experienced in the 1990s, by 1998 she was suffering from post-partum depression and found herself in a dark place in need of time to reflect and heal, what followed was the several years of reflection, healing and making deeper commitments to her singing/songwriting career.
And so, began what Susan calls her “awakening”. As she learned more about her culture and the strength and resilience of the Inuit who have been on this land for over 5,000 years, Susan was also engaging her own “inner artist” and falling in love with performing, sharing stories and singing.
“We have an extraordinary culture and an extraordinary past, we must embrace the opportunity to learn about our very own heroes, write those culture bridges and reframe who we are in today’s world.”
Through her music, Susan continues to share her experiences as an Inuk growing up in Nunavut, as well as the challenges faced by northern communities and Indigenous youth.
Susan is actively involved in various projects to bring food and support to northern communities and in 2016 the Arctic Rose Foundation gained charitable status with a focus on helping youth in the north through art and other engaging creative projects.
NOMAD is a 60 minute multi media/speaking and singing presentation on the last several thousand years of Canadian Inuit history developed and presented by Inuk singer/songwriter, Susan Aglukark, O.C.
Through songs, stories, film, photos and music videos, NOMAD will take you on the journey of the Canadian Inuit over the last several thousand years shedding light on some of the psychological and cultural impacts of rapid change in the North. NOMAD also gives a glimpse of the resilience and determination of a people who have maintained a quiet dignity despite near annihilation by disease and rapid change, a glimpse of the strengths of the traditional culture
that have (also) endured.
While NOMAD helps us better understand the effects of colonization and generational trauma of the Governments Residential School/assimilation policy on Inuit, viewers also gain an understanding that we as Indigenous (artists) work with and from for our own respective healing and learning.
NOMAD in its format(s) is a utilization of indigenous stories weaved from our respective collection of resources, “research”, bodies of work and methods of sharing, a healing process in itself.
Healed Enough is a 60-minute speaking and singing presentation by Inuk singer/songwriter, Susan Aglukark, O.C.
Through songs and stories, Susan will take you on her personal journey from small town Nunavut to headlining within two years with no musical orthodoxy to draw from. Susan talks candidly of how the challenges in the early years of her singing career became the catalysts and how meeting these challenges became her healer.
Healed Enough talks about how Susan chose the path of engaging the artist. As an indigenous person/professional and because of this path that Susan chose, Susan has come to understand that for many indigenous in pursuit of careers, pursuit will almost always mean simultaneously coming to terms with the many years of effects of colonization and all of the fallout and generational effects and trauma from residential school.
The process of her healing included connecting deeper with her culture and people, the Inuit, Susan shares:
“We (Inuit) have an extraordinary past, much of which has been kept from us and removed from the history books, the opportunity to learn about our very own cultural heroes helped me to aspire for more, to dream and to reframe who I am as an Inuit person in today’s world.”
Healed Enough is Susan’s story, she writes, sings and talks candidly about recovering (enough) from her own abuse, about stumbling into her celebrity, about re connecting with her Inuit heritage and the choices to use all of this to become Healed Enough.
The extended keynote presentation by Susan Aglukark is a 60 minute presentation incorporating stories and songs. Broken up into segments by album, she talks about her personal and professional struggles between each project beginning with the first album Arctic Rose and moving on to her latest independent album Blood Red Earth.
Throughout the presentation, Susan talks about the turning points in her life and how each one came with decisions and with each decision came risks and/or consequence. At each point a song was written and consequently recorded so Susan then goes into that song.
A big part of her presentation is her heritage, at the Arctic and it's people the Inuit. Susan touches briefly on her theory (the Post Colonization Syndrome Theory), the impact of Post Colonization and how the lack of transition (one of many reasons) has delayed the peoples fully engaging in mainstream society.
She touches on her growth and consequent commitment to her art, writing, and performing. She talks about struggling to find herself in her music and what happened when she finally did settle in the career.
Her universal message is told through seamless stories both of her own life experiences and those of her peoples then weaved into song.