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:
Due to issues surrounding cultural appropriation, I will not be performing at, attending, nor submitting my work to the @IMAs unless they revise their policies or have Inuit representation on the board for consultation.
— tanya tagaq (@tagaq) March 31, 2019
We have withdrawn PIQSIQ's album from its 2019 @IMAs nomination. We look forward to submitting future work once our concerns of cultural appropriation are taken seriously and policies are in place to prevent it from happening again. #inuitthroatsinging is for #inuitreclamation
— PIQSIQ_music (@piqsiq) April 1, 2019
Until the Indigenous Music Awards board of governors addereses the issues around #culturalappropriation, I will not be submitting any more of my music to the IMA’s until there is Inuit representation on the board. #imas #inuit #throatsinging
— Kelly Fraser (@Iskellyfraser) March 31, 2019
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:
— Indigenous Music Awards (@IMAs) April 2, 2019
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.