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The Arctic is a unique region with an interesting story and an exciting future. It is also covered by mystery, imaged, and experienced by the global society in a variety of ways. In the current political, economic, and ecological environment, the Arctic has remained a subject of fascination for many as an unspoiled and mysterious land that is detached from real-life problems. However, the region is far from being separated from such issues.
In this essay, the Arctic will be explored from the socio-ecological perspective drawing from the work Arctic Dreams and Nightmares by Alootook Ipellie. It will be argued that despite the perceived detachment of the Arctic from the international affairs that occupy the modern society, it has undergone tremendous challenges not only with regards to environmental disasters but also concerning the global public’s perception of the Arctic since the values, traditions, and cultures of the region have been significantly undermined. Ipellie’s work will serve as a supportive and illustrating vehicle for exploring the cultural identity of the region as well as explaining how the native residents, Inuit, and the nature of the Arctic were influenced by globalization.
The nature of Ipellie’s writing about the Arctic is deeply rooted in his pride in the culture and the resistance against the forces that make the region struggle. Through the use of magic realism in writing as well as through the use of graphic ink drawings, the author has positioned himself as the most unique and rebellious representative of the Inuit art and literature (McMahon-Coleman 108).
The exploration of his writing points to the idea that the author acknowledged the fact that the Western society perceived the Arctic culture as foreign and irrelevant; Ipellie’s contribution is valuable for the concern with presenting his culture to the international society as a living and continuously evolving entity rather an archaic society, the story of which belongs at anthropological museums. Arctic Dreams and Nightmares is a brilliant combination of twenty short stories that uniquely combined both visual and written imagery to illustrate the history of the Arctic in the mythological world of the Inuit people.
Arctic: The Environmentalist Perspective
The Arctic has not avoided the impact of human activity and is now suffering its devastating effects. Also, there is a particular North American arrogance with regards to such detached regions as the Arctic taking the brunt of environmental change implications. Throughout the history of globalization and industrialization, the Arctic has been perceived in a variety of ways. However, with the rising demand for scrambling mineral resources, the region is now signifying the potential for colonialism and a subject of dreams of conquest for financial wealth and personal ambition of global political players.
Ipeelie brilliantly underlined the fact that the nature of the Arctic does not deserve the attitude from the world: “who are you humans to think you can interfere with our lives? […] Why were you put on the planet Earth in the first place? Your only purpose is to kill us whenever you can” (125). The continuous destruction of the region and the predatory behaviors of people was the nightmare of the Arctic, which dreamed about “[…] paradise. We do it because we live on the edge of hell” (126). These dreams are necessary for withstanding against the havoc that the Arctic has to go through.
Looking at the history, the modern times, and the future of the Arctic from the environmentalist perspective that looks at the dialectic of dream/nightmare opposition means exploring whether the planetary consciousness prevails over globalist worldviews of colonialism. In this context, there is an allusion to the apocalyptic narrative, which has been recognized as an irreplaceable component of science fiction literature (Huggan 72).
The ideas of the end of the world are present in Ippelie’s writing in the sense of stopping the devastating effect that the humanity has caused to the nature of the Arctic and Earth as a whole: “perhaps humanity needs to be put on another planet, or better yet, in another universe. Now that would be cool” (128). Such an attitude towards the impact of human activity on nature is especially visible in the example of the Arctic, which has been seen as a paradise and is now slowly turning into an irreversible disaster, the significance of which is diminished.
By the majority of the global population, the Arctic is seen as an exotic world that is uninhabited and therefore irrelevant when considering the effects of climate change. Suggesting that the North of the Earth is an uncivilized territory is beyond the realm of reality. The problem of dehumanizing the population of the North is high on the agenda because these people are in an extremely vulnerable position of being exploited by colonizers. The issue persists because colonizers see that writing off nations as uncivilized societies are easier for accessing valuable natural resources that have been sheltered from the impact of globalization.
Nightmares: Attack on the Cultural Value of the Arctic
To bring attention to the problems that the region is facing, Ipellie first attempted to analyze himself as a “disembodied subject, freed of the limitations of mortality and the physical self. At the same time, he speaks for his people against colonization and disempowerment” (Hulan 62). Ipellie’s identity is seen in his lack of support toward how the Western world tried to “help” the Arctic. When describing how Brigitte Bardot came to “save the baby seals from the senseless slaughter they receive every spring from seal clubbers,” Ipellie underlined the fact that Western societies care more about the life of animals than about the survival of people who struggle to feed themselves and their children (106).
The attack on the tradition and livelihood of Westerners is the nightmarish change that can potentially lead to the complete elimination of Inuit as a population. This shows that foreigners rarely study the culture of remote societies and only push the agenda that is interesting to them. In the campaign to stop the hunt for baby seals, no attention was paid to the way the Inuit hunt or the value that seal meat brings to the survival of communities. In his illustrations “After Brigitte Bardot,” “When God Sings the Blues,” and “Summit With Sedna” Ipellie tried to imagine a world inhabited by Inuit mythological creatures such as the Sea Goddess Sedna, walruses, and shamans.
These images show that the culture inherent to the Inuit is not compatible with the Western tradition, which means that the rest of the world should not impose its views on how the Arctic population should live. The hypocrisy of such celebrities as Bardot is astonishing. Instead of educating themselves about why the Inuit hunt for seals and what methods they use to ensure that the animals are treated with respect when being killed for food and skin, such celebrities paint the image of the Inuit population as savages whose traditions do not deserve to be respected.
It is essential to mention the Angry Inuk film produced by Arnaquq-Baril, which illustrated the struggle that Inuit people had to go through when their livelihood was taken away. While the seal meat provided families with food, the skin industry helped to transition the society from its former lives into an economy that could sustain their survival. Arnaud-Baril once said: “that was taken away. The impact that it had was deep. It’s still happening” (qtd in Wolfe).
The ignorance that the Westerners had toward seal hunting illustrates that the global society rarely looks beyond the surface of a problem, which has often led to devastating consequences for communities that struggle to survive and develop. This is directly tied to the idea of the dehumanization of Inuit people and painting them as savages that kill innocent creatures.
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In conclusion, it must be mentioned that the contribution of Alotook Ipellie to the conversation about the value of the Arctic for the global society is immeasurable. It has been identified that the Western world sees the region as an unpopulated land that can be colonized for getting valuable natural resources to sustain globalization. Despite this misconception, the Arctic is not a magical land but an important geopolitical player, the destruction of which can lead to irreversible consequences.
In Arctic Dreams and Nightmares, Ipellie sheds light on the struggles of the region and how the rest of the world ignores the real problems and takes away the livelihood of the Inuit to push their agenda.
Huggan, Graham. “From Arctic Dreams to Nightmares (And Back Again): Apocalyptic Thought and Planetary Consciousness in Three Contemporary American Environmentalist Texts.” Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, vol. 23, no. 1, 2016, pp. 71-91.
Hulan, Renee. Climate Change and Writing the Canadian Arctic. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
Ipellie, Alotook. Arctic Dreams and Nightmares. Theytus Books, 1993.
McMahon-Coleman, Kimberley. “Dreaming an Identity between Two Cultures: The Works of Alotook Ipellie.” Journal of Postcolonial Writing, vol. 28. no.1, 2006, pp. 108-125.
Wolfe, Judy. “Why Are the Inuit so Angry?” Point of View Magazine. 2016. Web.