This episode explores traditional Iñuit tattooing and the modern interpretations of traditional tattooing. We interview Holly Nordlum and Charlene Apok who are two front runners of the revitalization efforts of traditional Iñuit tattoos in Alaska. I ask them questions about how they became introduced to traditional tattooing, how their home communities received them after they got their tattoos, the history of how tattoos became taboo to our own people, and how Holly and Charlene feel about makeup or temporary tavligun, and how tattoos promote culture, connection, and community.
"I think that's the valuable part when we're tattooing. It's one on one and you can talk to them and they're feeling connected to culture. And we tell stories and they tell us their story, and lots of these women, mostly, have never told their story or their connection to their own culture. That's the valuable part, and that what I was hoping it would bring, and it's been freaking amazing." - Holly Nordlum
Holly Mititquq Nordlum is an Inupiaq artist, born in Kotzebue, Alaska. Throughout her childhood, Holly developed an appreciation for her culture, arts, and life in the Arctic. A couple of great art teachers through high school, Susan Mason in Kotzebue and Cindy Yarawamai at Hawaii Preparatory Academy, both encouraged and inspired Holly. Her mother, Lucy, is also an artist and led her by example. Holly attended the University of Alaska, Anchorage and completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Graphic Design and Photography. While in school she also explored jewelry making, printmaking, and sculpture. Holly opened Naniq Design soon after graduation in 2004. She works full-time as a graphic designer and artist and Traditional Tattooist. She lives in Anchorage. You can visit her website here: http://www.naniqdesign.com
"It's become an ethic; it's become a way of living. It's informed my way of life in a higher capacity. It really makes you own s*** up. You are representing Inupiaq women, and in general, you're representing Alaska Native people. I'm very conscience of that in all my actions and how I speak to people and how I react. It's been really special to have that self-reflection." - Charlene Apok
Charlene Apok in her own words:
Uvaŋa Charlene Apok. Iñupiaqsisga Aqpik. Chinikmiuguruŋa, Kitcharvikmiuguruŋa. Aakaġa Sandra ‘Baby Lu’ Apok. Aanaġa Lorraine Hammond-lu, Agnes Amarok-lu. Igniġa Evan Lukluan.
I am Charlene Apok. My Iñupiaq name is Aqpik- salmonberry or cloudberry. My family is from Golovin and White Mountain. My mother is Sandra ‘Baby Lu’ Apok. My grandmothers are Lorraine Hammond and Agnes Amarok. My son is Evan Lukluan.
I was raised and currently live in Anchorage. My son and I are part of an Iñupiaq dance group here in the urban community. The last two years I’ve studied and taught the Iñupiaq language through the Alaska Native Heritage Center grant, Urban Eskimo Language Revitalization Program. I believe in our cultures are the foundation of our wellness. I apply this in my work as a researcher for a tribal health organization that serves the Alaska Native and American Indian community’s health needs. My goal in health research is to highlight our strengths and assets to inform health and wellness as we move forward.