Featured > Malakie Kilabuk celebrates 30 years at the IBC

Malakie Kilabuk celebrates 30 years at the IBC

Fifty-two years ago, Malakie Kilabuk was 4 years old. He loved to draw. His parents weren’t artists, but he watched his father carve from time-to-time. Malakie’s curiosity in the arts grew as wide as he grew tall. By the time he was a young adult, he found himself working at the Iqaluit’s local jewellery shop as a silversmith. He genuinely enjoyed the hands-on work as a jeweller, but his time was cut short due to health matters.

Malakie began working at the IBC (Inuit Broadcasting Corporation) in 1991. His friend Mosesee Aipeelie invited him to apply. Perhaps Malakie was influenced by his uncle Jonah Kelly ‘The Voice of the Arctic’. Jonah was a familiar on-air voice for CBC North. Or maybe it was his aunt Ann Hanson, a CBC broadcaster. Regardless, he accepted the position. it was an exciting environment to work in for a twenty-six-year-old. So much so, Malakie is still there, thirty years later. 

That iconic bright blue, yellow and red building on Federal Road is where Malakie hangs his cap. The bundle of primary-coloured walls is host to the IBC’s current production house. But that is not where it all began. Malakie started his first day of work in a different area of town. The IBC used to populate the current government’s Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs building. They even had their own studio space where the current flower shop stands. With less-than-ideal conditions, including low-baring ceilings, aging infrastructure, and even some paranormal activity, they made it work. The hot lights blazed during shoots, making the walls sweat as the snow fell outside.

Back inside, crew were using U-matic (three quarter inch videotape). Bits of the tape frequently chipped off when they would be recording, due to prolonged friction from the video drum. This was less than ideal for a production studio. Malakie learned that patience was a virtue for the little northern production house.
Iqaluit in 1991 was experiencing explosive growth. Arts, crafts and tourism were expanding, as was its population. 3,552 people smattered between the city limits. It was an interesting time, notably the conversations and actions being realized for the new territory of Canada, Nunavut. Inuit were becoming one step closer to self-determination amidst an ever-growing southern influenced city.
This new channel gave room for more Inuktut language productions to be broadcast and flooded on TVs across the territory. The small IBC crew worked together to cultivate ideas and learn technical skills. Work was demanding, and Malakie quickly moved up the ladder. In 1995, he became a senior producer.

Malakie remembers vividly that year being invited down to Toronto to direct Qaggiq ’95 on Global TV for the Canadian National Exhibition.  He was asked to direct the Inuit portion of the programming, including an energetic live-to-tape Inuit fashion show. The only hitch was, Malakie had never directed a live-to-tape before!
“They sent me down to Toronto. It was a completely different working environment – a different way of thinking.” Back in Iqaluit, the team didn’t work in hierarchies and were used to working collaboratively.
“(In Toronto), we were working in tiny rooms, lugging big equipment up so many stairs. It was so hot. So hot that I ended up getting heat stroke!” He was in the hospital for a day and left for home the following day, back to the cool winds and collective way of working.
Living in Nunavut, being resourceful is second nature, as is the ability to adapt and try new things. The mind-set is to work in a community effort. Malakie credits much of his knowledge to the people he worked with over the years. He was always calling on Don Nelson, Brian Luscombe, David Zimmerly, Brent Pollack to name a few. They taught him so much.  
“Don Nelson. That guy would create something out of nothing,” Malakie said as he leaned back in his chair with ease and laughed.

One of his fondest memories was working on the cooking show with Oleepeeka Veevee on Niqitsiat. She had the ability to make every shoot hysterically fun. Malakie directed every episode for 13 years. It was one of the IBC’s longest running shows and aired on APTN.
Malakie has been the Director of Operations for eight years. The job isn’t designed to get stale. Malakie’s greatest joy in his job is the endless learning opportunities, “We are continuously learning new Inuktitut words when we do our work. I can’t count how many words I have learned since I’ve started…we need to pass on our language, it is important. We are constantly working towards the goal to teach, preserve and to pass it (our language) on to our kids. It’s something important in my mind because I grew up learning this, and it’s being lost. Bringing it back through video is how we contribute here at IBC”.

All of IBC’s programming is in Inuktitut and that has always been the case. “For us, we are proud to showcase the place, our people, the animals, and our language that we love. It is special to us and important to show the rest of the world, while having ownership over our content”.
Finding people to fill the positions at IBC has historically been a challenge. Non-profit rates have always been lower than government rates. It is hard to find individuals willing to invest in the arts but accept living on a lower wage salary – especially in the north. Then there is the added layer of finding youth who speak Inuktitut from the ever-growing southern-influenced city. “But you know, sometimes we get lucky”, Malakie beamed, “We lucked out with Annabella Piugattuk. She is really amazing.”
Despite the difficulties, Malakie has hope. He sees a bright future for Nunavut’s screen-based industry. He notes the successes of past employees at the IBC and their contributions to making the industry thrive. He spoke fondly of Stacey Aglok MacDonald from Red Marrow, Sylvia Cloutier, Lynda Tucktu and Albert Kimmaliardjuk. Their contributions are immeasurable to the development of the screen-based industry in Nunavut, and they all got their start at the IBC.
Malakie repeatedly spoke of the joy he finds in his work, including meeting new people and the endless learning curve. “I love to travel and to see new places. I haven’t been through all of Nunavut, but I have been to quite a few communities. The job is constantly changing and evolving.”
“It really is a good job.”