New Montreal community center named after the Nunavik novel, Sanaaq


“I think it’s really something to be proud of,” says Makivik vice president Maggie Emudluk.

The family and friends of the late Inuk author Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk say they are proud and honored to see a new arts center named after the region’s most famous novel, Sanaaq.

The authorities of the City of Montreal have chosen to name the Sanaaq center as a cultural and community establishment after the title and heroine of Nappaaluk’s novel from the 1950s. The new establishment, which is scheduled to open in 2023, is built on the former site of the Montreal Children’s Hospital, located near the Atwater metro station and Cabot Square.

The novel Sanaaq focuses on the life of a young widow of the same name, which tells the story of an extended Inuit family and their daily life and activities before settling in: repairing clothes, building seasonal shelters and food harvest. The book was originally written in Inuktitut syllabics and later translated into English and French.

“Mitiarjuk really introduced us to who we are as Inuit – the language, the traditions,” said Maggie Emudluk, a family friend and vice president of economic development at Makivik Corp.

“I think it’s really something to be proud of.”

Nappaaluk’s daughter, Qiallak Nappaaluk, is now the mayor of Kangiqsujuaq, the Nunavik community in which the author lived until her death in 2007.

Despite early reports that the Nappaaluk family has not been consulted by the City of Montreal about his plans, Emudluk said family members had been contacted and consented to the city naming the building.

“It’s an honor for them,” Emudluk said. “They are all anxious to get off to visit the center, once all of these COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. “

The Sanaaq Center will serve as a community and cultural center, comprising an auditorium, exhibition space, café and library.

For its part, the City of Montreal indicated that a committee had chosen the name to create a permanent link with the Inuit community living in the region.

“The choice of this name is faithful to the spirit of the center by promoting indigenous culture through its programming and collections,” the city said in a statement posted on its website.

In Inuktitut, the root of the word “sana” means to make, create or construct something by hand.

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