Covid-19 and the climate crisis are changing our way of life, offering a unique opportunity to pause, reflect and look at our world from new perspectives. Renowned theatre company Border Crossings takes this moment to celebrate the cultural diversity of the Arctic and its importance to us all in Magnetic North – a special online event from their Origins Festival, presented at the British Museum in conjunction with the Arctic: culture and climate exhibition.
Indigenous people who live alongside the melting ice have witnessed the climate crisis in ways that most of us could never imagine. In this special live-streamed event, Origins invites you to listen to stories from extraordinary Arctic artists, poets and musicians streamed directly from the Museum’s Great Court. The whole event will be brought together with music by Indigenous Sámi band Vassvik who capture the resonance of the Arctic and place the other participants in a ritualised and trance-like soundscape. Led by Torgeir Vassvik, a keeper and renewer of the coastal music tradition and identity, the band use yoik and overtone singing with drumming, traditional instruments, and natural sounds.
The event will include inspirational voices such as Caitlyn Baikie (Top 5 Indigenous leaders under 30 to watch, CBC 2015) and Hivshu (whose name means The Voice of Arctic) to discuss climate change and the current situation in the Arctic.
Alongside them will be Tlingit storytelling from Ishmael Angaluuk Hope, performance poetry by Inuk author and spoken-word artist Taqralik Partridge, entrancing and powerful Greenlandic mask dancing from Elisabeth Heilmann Blind and contemporary and political performance artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory.
Award-winning Arctic photographer Kiliii Yuyan (30 Emerging Photographers, PDN 2019) will illuminate Magnetic North with film and photographs showing the hidden stories of polar regions, wilderness and Indigenous communities. Informed by ancestry that is both Nanai/Hèzhé (Siberian Native) and Chinese-American, he explores the human relationship to the natural world from different cultural perspectives. His incredible images offer another layer in this richly interwoven melée of artforms – a trademark of Border Crossings who are known for their intercultural multi-media theatre in response to the contemporary globalised world.
Arctic: culture and climate is the first major exhibition on the history of the Arctic and its Indigenous Peoples, through the lens of climate change and weather. The Arctic has been home to resilient communities for nearly 30,000 years, cultures that have lived with the opportunities and challenges of one of the most dramatic environments on the planet. Today climate change is transforming the Arctic at the fastest rate in human history. The Citi exhibition Arctic: culture and climate is the first to look at the whole circumpolar region, revealing how Arctic Peoples have adapted to climate variability in the past and meet the challenges of global climate change today.
Magnetic North is presented by the British Museum and Border Crossings, supported by Arts Council England and the High Commission of Canada.
Part of the public programme accompanying the Citi exhibition Arctic: culture and climate at the British Museum (22 October 2020 – 21 February 2021).
Magnetic North will stream from the British Museum on Thursday 3 December 2020.