Inuit artists are boycotting the Indigenous Music Awards over concerns of cultural appropriation

They are also requesting that the IMAs add Inuit representation to their board.

April 2, 2019

A group of Canadian artists—among them Polaris Prize-winner Tanya Tagaq, Yellowknife duo PIQSIQ, and Nunavut artist Kelly Fraser—have announced a boycott of the Indigenous Music Awards over the organization’s nomination of a non-Inuk artist whose music they explain appropriates the Inuit cultural custom of throat singing.

Tagaq, PIQSIQ, and Fraser announced the boycott yesterday, stating that they would be withdrawing their scheduled appearances, performances, and nominated music from the ceremonies until the IMAs make the decision to add Inuit representation to their board. The artists have reportedly spent the last several months attempting to address this problematic behaviour to both the festival and the non-Inuk artist in question, though PIQSIQ’s Tiffany Ayalik admits “nothing came of that,” leading to the announcement of a boycott until the necessary changes are made:

The group of musicians performing the boycott have refused to mention the nominee in question in order to keep the conversation focused on the cultural appropriation at hand—specifically, the appropriation of a tradition and mode of expression that Ayalik notes “was heavily tabooed and fineable and almost went extinct from Inuit memory,” which the artist has come to treat “as an act of defiance in the face of things like the Indian Act and things that were prohibited at one time in Canada.”

The Indigenous Music Awards, which take place annually as a part of Manitoba’s ManitoAhbee Festival, responded today with the statement: “We have been presented with a very difficult task, to decide if an individual artist is over stepping creative boundaries that some feel is not her right.”

The statement announced the “decision to add an Inuit representative to the Board at its next AGM,” though no conclusion has been reached by the festival at this point regarding its handling of the artist in question: “We don’t presume to agree or disagree on this matter at this time, as it requires great reflection, ceremony, and discussions on how we move forward in a good way, to ensure that we as Indigenous people uphold our teachings, and do not provide a platform for negativity and separation.” Read the full statement below:

Tagaq, Fraser, or the members of PIQSIQ have yet to comment on the statement by the IMAs or how it affects their boycott of the event.

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