A week on…

A week ago today, Phil and I arrived home from our adventures in the Northwest Territories. Our livers, sadly, never made it back. They remain to this day, bruised and battered, somewhere on the shores of the Great Slave Lake. I’ll miss my liver, we had grown up together, but it seems a small price to pay for what we experienced. Yellowknife gave us Ice Road Truckers, Ice Pilots, Northern Lights and a seemingly endless array of photogenic characters. In return we gave Yellowknife an excuse to party and a vital organ…it seems a fair exchange. Going through the plethora of material that we had gathered, I am still amazed at the rich diversity of life and experiences in such a small place. Yellowknife is a city of less than 20,000 people, yet there wasn’t a day went by that we didn’t come across a character or two with a story to tell. Our original idea had been to go out there and capture life on the edge. I don’t think either of us realised though, quite how much life was up there.

Just to highlight this point, these two are the first and last people that I spoke to in Yellowknife…

The first was Tony Foliot, YK’s very own ‘Snow King’. The man is a legend. He left Quebec over 30 years ago because, well…‘because it was Quebec’. Since then he has been across most the Northwest Territories by one means or another, has spent the past 15 years living on a variety of houseboats on the Great Slave Lake and each winter he spends two months building a castle out of ice and snow (check out the website: http://snowking.ca).

The first time we met Tony was in a coffee shop, on our second morning in Yellowknife. Within three hours of meeting him we were cruising around the lake in his motorised canoe, getting a personal tour of the houseboats in the company of him and his dog, Storm. He gave us the lowdown on the boats and the squatters who live on Jolliffe Island, plied us with 10% proof alcohol and sent us on our way with enough tales from the wilderness to fill a Boy’s Own Adventure.

In contrast, Bob Kussy was the last character that I spoke to before we left Yellowknife. He had been introduced to us by a couple of friends during one of our forays around the backstreets of the town. Married to Goota, a third generation Canadian Inuit artist, Bob had been described to us as a man with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Inuit history and culture. He was apparently a man that I needed to talk to. And Bob liked to talk. I ended up spending two hours listening to this guy on my last afternoon in Yellowknife. I was expecting tea and a chat. What I got was an incredibly personal and insightful introduction to Inuit history and culture over the past two generations. I haven’t even begun to sift through what Bob told me yet. Indeed some of it is too personal to ever see the light of day.

I was sorry that I never got to meet Goota. She was up in the High Arctic and didn’t get back until after we left. From his description of her though she sounded like an incredible woman. Practically illiterate when he met her and emerging from an abusive marriage, she has gone on to become one of Canada’s most celebrated Inuit artists and an ambassador of Inuit art and culture around the world. Unassuming they may be, but Goota and Bob it would seem are feted by many of the world’s major galleries and museums. As Bob put it…’we get to go in through the back door’…

  1. i am so flattered …..the choice and use of words is exactly what northerners seem rto respond to best…wsomething that appeares to come from within…am honored boys, and promise to keep taking nice care of all future visitors. would like a copy of above for my own use and to forward to my ma who is 90….will call you buggers when we invade england early summer 2013…thanks for hanging out-bob

    • My pleasure, Bob. Thanks for your time and the incredible insight that you gave me into Inuit culture. I intend to do more with the material, once I have figured out what, and I’ll be sure to pass it by you before I do anything with it. In the meantime, let me have an e-mail address and I’ll send you the photos and copy. Cheers Bob, see you next year hopefully, when we can return the hospitality…Trevor

  2. ehpem said:

    On my recent trip to Haida Gwaii (formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands) I came across one of Goota’s artworks, and a picture that includes Bob in it. I have put links to an information page and to a detail of her sculpture below if you are interested. Makes it seem like a small world somehow…. I am looking forward to more photographs from your trip 🙂 I am now expecting to see pictures of my friend that lives there. I will let you know if I see him go by.

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