Video, 10:30 min

Throat singing by Silla: Charlotte Qamaniq (Iglulik, NU) and Cynthia Pitsiulak (Kimmirut, NU)

300 km north of the Canadian capital Ottawa, 350 km northwest of Montreal, in the province of Quebec, lined by pristine forests, lies Lac Agassiz.

It is one out of over a dozen places in Canada alone named after Swiss glaciologist and racist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), and one out of over seventy places around the world which are carrying his name. There is also an impact crater on Mars, a promontory on the Moon and a main-belt asteroid named after him. Half a dozen animal species carry the name Agassiz.

What if this lake were called Lac Hitler? Too much of a unilateral bias? Lac Staline? Too blatant a comparison? How would we feel if this was Lac Rosenberg? Lac D'Annununzio? Lac Stoddard? Lac Kang Sheng? Lac Pétain? Rename the lake? Unname it? Explain it? Disdain it? Forget it?

May this ancestral land of the Algonquin (First Nation of Canada) be freed from its association with a man who taught that "the brain of the Negro is that of the imperfect brain of a seven months' infant in the womb of a White." May the trees lining the lake no longer stand in relation to a man who paved the way for segregation and apartheid and whose thoughts influenced Nazi racial hygienists, admirers of Mussolini and Ku-Klux-Klan activists alike. May this beautiful wintry landscape rather bear witness to the human mind's ability to free itself from prejudice, racial hatred and discrimination.

Text by Hans Fässler

Supported by AVEK, Arts Promotion Centre Finland, Finnish Artists' Studio Foundation