Letters to the Ice

Created by
Devora Neumark, PhD

Artist Statement

White and brilliant crystalline blue are the colours most often associated with ice, at least up here in the Arctic. When, in August 2015, I first launched my related participatory art project Letters to the Water – during which I collected, and then read, letters from around the world about and to water – I did so acknowledging the one million gallons of mine wastewater that had just breached a wall at the Gold King Mine near Silverton, CO, which made its way along the San Juan River impacting the Navajo Nation, hundreds of farmers, and the entire local ecosystem, and also acknowledging the Water Protectors in the Oceti Sakowin Camp who took a stand in solidarity to halt the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Now, living as I do Iqaluit (“place of many fish” in Inuktitut), the Eastern Arctic capital city of Nunavut in Inuit Nunangat (homeland of the Inuit), I’m expanding this project to focus specifically on ice, especially given about the increasingly alarming state of ice around the world.


Project created by

Devora Neumark, PhD

Interdisciplinary Artist-Researcher Yale-certified Climate Change Adaptation Practitioner Arctic Winter College Fellow 2021

Additional Context

“It’s not just the Arctic Ice, which recedes each year. Just as irreplaceable is the culture, the wisdom that has allowed the Inuit to thrive in the Far North for so long.” ~ From Sheila Watt-Cloutier’s The Right to Be Cold, 2015.

Letters to the Ice is a public project that invites people from around the world to engage directly with the grim reality that global ice loss is currently catching up to the worst case scenario predictions. In her recent keynote at Carleton University’s Kinamagawin event about Inuit relocations (Thursday, February 25, 2021), Sheila Watt-Cloutier suggested that change happens at the speed of empathy. Letters to the Ice aims to invite the necessary empathy to mainstream climate and environmental justice and share concerns and solutions about climate and environmental change, trauma, mitigation and adaptation. Your letter could take any form (e.g. a blessing or prayer, an apology or admission of accountability, or even a love letter, etc.). It can be handwritten or typed. It can include images or not. If you write your letter in a language other than English, please also provide an English translation. If you would like to submit a letter to ice to be included in this project, submit your letter here:

Submit a Letter to the Ice


    Sometimes the ice would not melt away until late summer, other years it would melt a little earlier, always within the time frame identified by the elders. It used to melt off in July and sometimes in late July here in Iqaluit when we first came here. Other years sometimes it reached into August. I recall one year where it did just that. The ice left in August that year, but nowadays, these last few years, the ice is no longer staying to June even. These days now some families are bringing their boats as the ice now stays only for a short time and then leaves.
    ~ Inuit Elder Henry Boaz, March 2002

    In the January 29, 2021 online publication by the World Economic Forum titled, Global Ice Loss is Catching up to Worst-case Scenario Predictions, Sophia Hirsh, states that, “Overall, between 1994 and 2017, planet Earth lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice. To put that in perspective, that would be equivalent to a 100-meter-thick sheet of ice the size of the U.K.” [https://www.weforum.org/…/global-ice-loss-climate…/]. Impacts of the melting ice include rising temperatures in many parts of the globe, endangered coastal communities, food insecurity, and more, as detailed here: https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/six-ways-loss-of-arctic-ice-impacts-everyone

    As a non-Inuit living in Iqaluit, I am aware of my being qallunaat people who are not Inuit, considered as a group). This project is therefore a deliberately inclusive invitation for people around the world to bring attention to the ever-worsening impacts of climate change, which are impacting Indigenous communities across the Arctic disproportionately.

    Artist Bios

    Currently living in Iqaluit (in the Eastern Arctic), Devora Neumark, PhD is an interdisciplinary artist-researcher, educator and community-engaged practitioner with over 30 years of meditation practice. Neumark is a second-generation Holocaust survivor. They have been a faculty member in the Goddard College MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts program since July 2003 and was a co-founder of its Indigenous and Decolonial Art Concentration in Port Townsend, WA. Their SSHRC-funded research-creation PhD titled Radical Beauty for Troubled Times: Involuntary Displacement and the (Un)Making of Home was an inquiry into the relationship between the traumas associated with forced dislocation and the deliberate beautification of home. Neumark is developing two new bodies of related work both focused on and incorporating contemplative practice: one engages wellness and the cultivation of joy as radical practice; the other is driven by mainstreaming climate and environmental justice. http://devoraneumark.com

    The Thief and the Letters

    After making a run through several cities, leaving great swathes of people crumpling over without a clue as to why, the thief took a break on the beach where he sat with a rum and ate bits of our organs, the ones that process grief. This is where and when he saw a great many birds of many sizes and many shapes converging upon the same point, far off to the north.

    As the thief gaped with something like wonder, one of the birds shat in his mouth. He sputtered and spat and cursed, wiping his mouth clean before jumping very high, grabbing the poor bird-of-paradise who had excreted, and broke its neck on the way down. From its limp talons fell a hand-written letter which expressed a great deal of love and affection towards its recipient.

    The thief, without reading carefully, swallowed the letter and felt fast pride in his belly while the bird’s corpse fell from his hand and into the sleeping ocean who swole and groaned a little redder than before. The thief halted, afraid of the ocean’s fury at having killed one of its servants (don’t you know? All birds are in league with the ocean as well as the sky.) But the ocean just rolled over and kept asleep.

    Seeing that he was safe, the thief began to carefully and quietly leap into the air, snatching birds, devouring their letters, dropping envelopes and corpses into the waters. All night long, the ocean roiled redder and redder with organs and feathers, maddened and boiling with nightmares, until eventually it began to roll up across the lands and its sibling, the ice for whom the letters were intended, began to melt until eventually it was gone.

    When the ocean finally woke, it was furious and twisting itself in circles with grief for its sibling ice, its family birds. It shouted across the drowned world, WHO DID THIS? and its shout echoed across the emptiness.

    After scouring the earth, the ocean found the thief atop the tallest mountain and the ocean asked the thief what he had done, why he had done it, and the thief said nothing to the ocean.

    One day, in the future, the ocean will calm and recede, knowing that many had suffered because of it. So it will slowly fall back to where it started and while it mourns its sibling, that most painful part will begin to freeze over and the ocean will know that it won’t be alone forever. The ice will return.

    But in that moment, the thief sat atop the tallest mountain still, surrounded by a sobbing, raging, red ocean demanding answers, accountability. A long chill curled up the thief’s spine and through his lungs and a whimper rose from his breast. He was very afraid and very alone.


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