In Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, an isolated community of 1500 mainly Inuit residents, Hip-Hop has been popular for many years. But it’s the glamourized gangsta lifestyle on display in music videos that many of the local kids choose to emulate.
Capitalizing on the popularity of Hip-Hop, social worker and longtime B-boy Stephen Leafloor has been bringing positive Hip Hop workshops to Northern Canada. In 2007 Leafloor and his crew of Hip Hop instructors flew to Cambridge Bay for a five-day intensive workshop. For five days they taught breakin’, beatboxing and even graffiti to over 100 Inuit teenagers. Sensitive to the community’s rich cultural heritage, Leafloor took advantage of Hip-Hop’s adaptable nature and encouraged the youth to incorporate Inuit traditions. The results were a mesmerizing mix of throat singing with beatbox and Inuit symbolism and dancing with Hip-Hop moves.
While dancing to the beat, Inuit kids are encouraged to blend their rich, ancient culture with Hip-Hop culture. Between backspins and body-waves, they discuss bullying, body image and suicide. Five days later they emerge not only better dancers, but more confident kids, who have a clearer idea of how to balance their cultural identity with popular culture.
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"Arctic Hip Hop provides powerful evidence that hip hop is much more than a musical genre or form of aesthetic expression and has the power to connect generations and foster positive life change. Arctic Hip Hop and the other film reviewed here, #Bars4Justice, are relevant to a wide range of fields, including hip hop studies, indigenous studies, women’s and gender studies, communications, and sociology."
- Cassandra D. Chaney, Films for the Feminist Classroom
"Young people - ordinary everyday teens, with genuine hopes and dreams and emotions - talk into the camera with disarming candour and honesty, and events seemingly unfold at their own pace, in real time… The effect is both eye-opening and entertaining: ARTIC HIP HOP is documentary filmmaking as it should be - quiet and subtle and willing to credit the viewer with patience and intelligence."
- Alex Strachan, National Post