Arts & Culture

Infants strut their maklaks on-line as Northwest Alaska’s child pageant goes digital

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Brandi Qalhaq Williamson’s daughter, Wren Anniviaq, wears a blueberry-print atikłuk and a replica of a parky made in 1949. (Photo Courtesy of Lovie Harris Baby Beauty Contest)

Any other year, an announcer would have read this description of Brandi Qalhaq Williamson’s two-year-old daughter’s traditional regalia to a captivated crowd:

“Wren’s parky has a squirrel and muskrat head body, with wolverine tassels and a wildflower qupak design above. Her bottom qupak design is the same as Argagiaq’s, in a much smaller version made with a black and white calfskin with dyed alder leather trim. The sunshine ruff is made with 67 pieces of wolf stitched together to make a continuous circle, with wolverine and sea otter inside the ruff.”

Instead, it was a caption on a photo posted in a Facebook group.

This year, to protect vulnerable people from COVID-19, the annual Lovie Harris Baby Beauty Contest went virtual. The contest allows parents to announce their newborns and toddlers to the community while showcasing craft, culture and creativity.

“It gives the parents a chance to show the history of their families – if they’re from upriver, or coastal,” said Saima Chase, the organizer of the contest, and former baby contestant back in 1982. “Each family has different types of designs for atikłuks, parkys, trim, and I think it gives them a chance to showcase what and where their babies came from, where their family’s from.”

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