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Women’s throat-singing preserves traditional Inuit culture

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The Guardian features an interview with two women of Inuit heritage, Taqralik Partridge and Nina Segalowitz, who discuss the importance of throat-singing – a traditional Inuit practice among women – to their sense of heritage.

“Throat singing is a traditional Inuit game, usually played by women”, explains Taralik, “The songs or sounds are made up by different women. They imitate sounds that you would hear in your environment in the North, including the wind, the river and there are some ladies that do one that’s called the bumble bee and there’s one we do called the saw. You have two people who play with each other and echo each other and the object of the game is to make the other person stop either by exhaustion, laughing or losing the rhythm.”

You can find some footage of throat-singing at Youtube, and I’d recommend it, as the practice should be seen to be believed. I was astounded at some of the sounds these women can make in the course of the ‘game’ and moved by the intimacy invoked by the proximity of the women as they play.

Equally as interesting as the story of throat-singing discussed in the interview, is Nina’s story of her removal from Inuit society as a baby, her subsequent adoption, and as an adult her search for and eventual reunion with her birth family.

“It was as if a hole in my heart had closed,” said Nina, of being reunited with her birth father, “I saw the northern lights for the first time. I had always told myself that the first time I saw the aurora borealis, it meant that I had come home.”

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