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Summer Project

October 16, 2009

The first thing we were asked to do was a summer project. We were sent a brief before we arrived at college, a minor technical hitch meant that some students (most) didn’t get the brief until about a week and a half before the course started. I think that added a touch of much needed panic to the whole process of preparing for university.

The brief was to select a line of text from the provided list and use that text to conjure up a story which you would prepare as a finger puppet show for presentation in the first week. I chose the following piece:

“It’s freezing – an extraordinary zero degrees Fahrenheit – and it’s snowing, and in a language that is no longer mine the snow is qanik – big almost weightless crystals falling in clumps and covering the ground with a layer of pulverized white frost.”

First thing I did was look it up. It comes from “Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow” by Peter Hoeg (find out more). I also looked up the word qanik and found out that it was a Greenlandic word for snowflake. I followed that up by looking into the idea that Inuit’s have more words for snow than any other people. The answer to that question is to be found in a book called “Great Inuit vocabulary Hoax” by Franz Boaz, Anthropologist (find out more).

I did a fair bit of work looking into Inuit’s, their customs, traditions and beliefs and wrote the following script for the puppet show:

Summer Project 2009

Puppet Show


AKIAK the Inuit is sat on the ices fishing. Backdrop is ice and snow landscape.


It’s freezing – an extraordinary 0° fahrenheit – and it’s snowing, and in the language that is no longer mine the snow is qanik – big almost weightless crystals falling in clumps and covering the ground with a layer of pulverized white frost.

I remember that day well. I fished all day and caught nothing. Not that day, nor the next. Not any day for a week and then a month. No fish. No seal, No bear. My family grew hungry living first on our reserves and then begging our people. I could do nothing.

I knew what I had done. I knew what was wrong.

As the narrator speaks a shadow grows larger across the backdrop of ice and snow. The shadow of Nanook, the bear god of hunting. Nanooks music.

Puppets needed: AKIAK, NANOOK – shadow, AKIAK’s FAMILY (as a group)
Props needed: Buckets of polystyrene form pieces for throwing as snow.
Backdrop: Snowy landscape


AKIAK is in a queue in the Job Centre.

Each member of the audience gets a Signing On form and lines up in a queue like Akiak.


I had upset Nanook, the bear god of hunting. To upset Nanook by failing to follow the rituals was beyond foolish. But I was hungry. I had been hunting for days. I ate the meat before I performed the ritual to thank the spirits and release the animals soul. This had angered Nanook so. I never hunted successfully again.

This is why I was here. Escaped to a far away land. Trying to escape Nanook’s anger. Trying to escape the hunger.

This land was strange and to eat one had to work. To work for money to buy the food. No hunting here . . . except for a job.

AKIAK gets to the desk to talk to the Careers Officer.


Hi there. I’m here to help you find work. Tell me. What can you do . . . ?

Props needed: Signing On forms.
Backdrop: Job Centre


AKIAK back in the snow.


In Greenland, with my people, I was an asset. I could hunt, fish, make clothing, boots and build homes, new and traditional.

That was before Nanook cursed me for my mistake. He haunts me still. I will be free here. I will provide for my family and make a new life in this new country.

But what can I do here? What do I know?

As Akiak talks the shadow starts to get larger across the background again. Nanooks music

Puppets needed: AKIAK, NANOOK – shadow
Props needed: A seal; A fish; Cloths; Boots; An Igloo. Buckets of polystyrene form pieces for throwing as snow.
Backdrop: Snowy landscape


AKIAK is stacking shelves in ICELAND.


It’s not much, but I’ve been here for 6 months now. I have money. My family are housed and fed. I work hard and get paid for the work I do. I pay my taxes and my children are in school. They are learning well about this country they now call home. I think maybe soon I can call this place home. Nanook cannot touch us here.

A character approaches and follows Akiak as he stacks the freezers. Boys from the Blackstuff music?


Gissa Job, go on giss it. Go on gissa job. I could do that. I could put boxes in freezers. Give us a go. Go on gissa job.

Akiak ignores Yosser and carries on working. A manager approaches and shoes Yosser away.


Akiak – can I have a word? You’ve been with us for 6 months now and we are very pleased with your work. You’ve never missed a day, you’ve never been late and you’ve never complained about the work. You are the only employee we have who can stock the freezers for a full 8 hour shift! We have therefore decided to give you a pay rise . . . from now on you’ll be earning 10p above minimum wage per hour. What do you think of that?


Splendid sir. Many thanks.

Akiak gets on with filling the freezers.

The shadow of Anook appears on the backdrop and gets larger. Nanooks music. Suddenly a woman in a suit and a policeman turns up.


Akiak Kuvageegai?




I have a warrant here for your detention and deportation. You’ll have to come with us now. We have your family in a van outside.

During the change of scenery the audience have cable ties strapped to their wrists to hold their hands together like handcuffs.

Puppets needed: AKIAK, YOSSER, MANAGER, WOMAN (careers officer puppet), POLICE MAN , NANOOK – shadow
Props needed: Iceland shopping bags for the audience.
Backdrop: Iceland Shop


Akiak is behind bars, his family in the background


3 months we have been here. Taken from our new home, taken from my job, my children from their school. They say we are illegal immigrants . That we have no right to be here. They say we are to be sent home. Back to Greenland. I love Greenland, I love the snow, the ice, the people . . . but I fear Nanook. I fear his anger. I fear the hunger

A policeman/gaurd enters.


Akiak. Your hearing is tomorrow. You’ll be deported the day after. Sorry mate but you’ve got no chance. Greenland isn’t exactly a dangerous place like a war zone. In fact, there’s never been an asylum seeker from there.

Music from Porridge?

Puppets needed: AKIAK, AKIAKS family, GAURD (police man puppet)
Props needed: wire mesh fence to go in front of the stage.
Backdrop: Detention Centre.


Akiak is in a meeting room with three people. The woman in the suit and two others (the two others can be part of the backdrop)


Akiak Kuvageegai. You are here today to present you case for asylum in this country. You claim that you fear for your life should you have to return to your country of origin.  I must say that we have never received an application of this kind from a resident of your country. All our checks and reports say that there is no direct threat to your well being should you be returned. Do you have anything to say?


It is not the country I fear, or it’s people. It is Nanook. Nanook will not allow me to live should I return.


Who is this Nanook? We can find no-one of this name on the register for your country. No-one on the criminal register or the electoral for that matter. I do have a psychological profile here that states you clearly and honestly believe that someone or something called Nanook will in some way prevent you from continuing a peaceful existence in your own country but without some kind of proof of this persons existence or their potential to carry out the actions you claim without some form of government intervention we are left with very few options.

The shadow of Nanook looms over the backdrop.

Do you understand what I am saying? Can you provide more? We are trying to help here.

Puppets needed: AKIAK, WOMAN, GAURD (police man puppet), Nanook for shadow
Props needed: none
Backdrop: Court Room.


AKIAK sits on the ice with his fishing rod. The backdrop is obscured by a thin white cloth.


It’s freezing – an extraordinary 0° fahrenheit – and it’s snowing, and in the language that is no longer mine the snow is qanik – big almost weightless crystals falling in clumps and covering the ground with a layer of pulverized white frost.

The shadow of Nanook looms across the backdrop until a park warden appears on the ice.


You can’t fish there mate. The ice is too thin. This is a park you know, not the bleedin’ arctic. We’ve got ‘eatlh and safty to consider here . . . ‘ealth and safty.

The white cloth is pulled away from the backdrop to reveal a park in the winter with trees and people.

Puppets needed: AKIAK, WARDEN, Nanook for shadow
Props needed: Buckets of polystyrene form pieces for throwing as snow. Thin white cloth.
Backdrop: Park.

I’ve scanned in some of the pages for my notebook which include sketches I made. I’ve also scanned in some of the puppets from the show.

notes on inuits

notes on inuits

Inuit potrait

Inuit portrait

Inuit family

Inuit family

Akiak - version 1

Akiak - version 1

Akiak - version 2

Akiak - version 2

Akiak - puppet

Akiak - puppet

Job Centre Officer

Job Centre Officer

Yosser Hughes

Yosser Hughes

Iceland Shop Manager

Iceland Shop Manager



We all showed our puppet shows in one long afternoon. It was excellent fun and, I think, far more enjoyable than most of the students thought it would be. The quality of the performances varied but all were wildly amusing as well as highly creative.

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