Topic: ARTS

Order of Canada Presented to Internationally Acclaimed Artist and Lecturer


 

Dr. Jane Ash Poitras CM RCA has received many honors as an internationally acclaimed visual artist and lecturer who has influenced a new generation of artists and students .

She has now added the Order of Canada to the numerous awards she has received in recognition of her achievements and contributions that include the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and honorary doctorates from the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta.

With Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees from the University of Alberta, she went on to obtain a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University in New York City. Immediately upon leaving Columbia, she returned to Canada to play a significant role in the development of a new visual vocabulary for First Nations perspectives in contemporary art. Her unique style combines representational strategies of postmodern art—collage, layering, overpainting and incorporation of found objects—with a deep commitment to the politics and issues common to indigenous peoples.

A sessional lecturer for the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Native Studies for more than 20 years, throughout her career she has been much in demand as a guest lecturer at universities and conferences and at the many exhibitions of her own art across Canada and the United States and internationally, including Paris, Amsterdam and Mexico City.

Jane’s journey of discovery and creation has opened new doors to enlightenment as she combines her many diverse interests in pursuit of her distinctive artistic vision. Over the years, Jane has pursued many different routes of discovery, each reflected in the art she has produced. Those journeys of exploration have taken her not only into plumbing her Aboriginal roots (beginning by reconnecting with her birth family and her Mikisew Cree First Nation), but into such diverse topics as pharmacology, ethnobotany, linguistics, and literary creations supplementing the creation of visual works of art.

The range and diversity of the interests that inspire and inform her artistic creations have resulted in a number of distinctive series of artworks that, over time, reflect the paths she has taken on her journey of discovery. A survey of those series over the 30 years of her professional career could well serve as a map of that journey and a graphic record of her evolution as an artist.

For example, in 2009 she traveled to Japan with her son Eli, a student in Japanese language and culture, a tour that consisted primarily of visits to Buddhist monasteries and left a lasting impression on both of them. When she returned, while she continued to focus on Indigenous history, culture and spirituality that had informed and inspired her previous work, her new work subsequently began to incorporate Japanese elements and their placement according to Japanese art customs.

Edmonton Journal visual arts critic Janice Ryan previewed one of Poitras’s recent exhibitions, an ambitious collection of works layered with handwritten text, vintage photos, stamps and newspaper clippings placed over a background of thinned oil and acrylic paint . “The work is engaging for its beauty alone,” Ryan wrote. “But up close is where the cerebral journey begins, unraveling fragments of information, both subtle and in-your-face pronouncements, to reveal the story this imaginative
artist is telling.”

One of the key aspects of her art that sets it apart from the work of other artists is her ability to combine and reconcile disparate themes and elements to create fully resolved works that convey information on different levels. Commenting on her art, Poitras says “each blank canvas is an invitation to a journey of discovery. I may begin with an idea of what the final destination—the completed painting—may be, but I’m always open to the unexpected. As Carl Beam said, the art of placement is a spiritual act. Each step in the creative process may reveal unexpected choices that require decisions.

“The final decision for each piece is to know when it is resolved, when it is finished.”
The art of Jane Ash Poitras is featured in dozens of prestigious private, public and corporate collection.

She is represented by the Bearclaw Gallery in Edmonton, the Canada House Gallery in Banff, the Kinsman Robinson Galleries in Toronto and Galerie d’Art Vincent in Ottawa.


 

Another Award For Iconic Dene Artist Alex Janvier

Iconic Dene artist Dr. Alex Janvier CM AOE RCA may be 82, but he`s still painting, still inspiring succeeding generations . . . and still receiving awards.

His most recent honor is the 2017 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award which also went to poet Alice Major and composer John Estacio. At a recent presentation luncheon at the Banff Centre each recipient received a handcrafted medal, $30,000 and a two-week residency at the Banff Centre`s Leighton Artist`s Studio.

His many other awards include the Order of Canada; the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal; the Alberta Order of Excellence; honorary doctorates from the University of British Columbia, the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta, the Alberta Centennial Medal; and the Governor General Award in Visual and Media Arts.

Born of Dene Suline and Saulteaux descent on the Cold Lake (Alberta) Reserve in 1935, Alex was eight years old when he was uprooted from his home and sent to the Blue Quills Indian Residential School near St. Paul, Alberta. Although Janvier says he had a creative instinct from as far back as he can remember, it was at the residential school that he was given the tools to create his first paintings. Unlike many Aboriginal artists of his time, Janvier went on to receive formal art training from the Alberta College of Art in Calgary and graduated with honours in 1960. Immediately after graduation, Janvier accepted an opportunity to instruct art at the University of Alberta.

While Alex credits the influence of artists Wassily Kandinsky (Russian) and Paul Klee (Swiss), his style is unique. Many of his masterpieces involve an eloquent blend of both abstract and representational images with bright, often symbolic colours. As a First Nations person emerging from a history of oppression and many struggles for cultural empowerment, Janvier paints both the challenges and celebrations that he has encountered in his lifetime. Alex proudly credits the beadwork and birch bark basketry of his mother and other relatives as influencing his art.

As a member of the commonly referred to “Indian Group of Seven”, Janvier is one of the significant pioneering Aboriginal artists in Canada, and as such has influenced many generations of Aboriginal artists. By virtue of his art, Janvier was selected to represent Canada in a Canadian/Chinese Cultural Exchange in 1985.

Although he has completed several murals nationally, Janvier speaks of the 450 square-meter circular masterpiece entitled “Morning Star” on the ceiling of the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now History), as a major highlight in his career. In January 2004, one of Janvier’s works was displayed in Paris, France at the Canadian Forum on e Cultural Enterprise.

Last year, a Janvier design was replicated in bits of glass in a 45-foot in diameter installation at the entrance to the new Rogers Centre arena in Edmonton–a $1 million art project.

In recognition of his success, Alex Janvier recently received three prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, The Tribal Chiefs Institute, and Cold Lake First Nations. Janvier’s passion and natural talents for creative expression remains strong to this day.

In 2012 the new Janvier Gallery opened on Cold Lake First Nations 149B, which is located north of the City of Cold Lake.


 

Indigenous-Produced Docu-Drama Series “1491” Reveals Untold History of the Americas Before Columbus

The history of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas, before and after 1492, has always been told from the point of view of the European settlers and in recent times, by non-Indigenous scholars. Until now. Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) will present the world premiere of the docu-drama series 1491: The Untold Story of the Americas Before Columbus starting November 8th on APTN hd and e at 7:00 p.m. ET, APTN w at 7:00 p.m. MT and n North at 7:00 p.m. CT.

Based on Charles C. Mann’s best selling book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, the eight hour miniseries, produced by Animiki See Digital Production of Winnipeg and Aarrow Productions of Victoria, takes its audience on a journey dating as far back as 20,000 years ago through to 1491. The series focuses on the origins and history of ancient civilizations and groundbreaking achievements in North and South America in the areas of agriculture, astronomy, architecture, environment, governance, medicine, technology, science, trade and art.

The series is produced, directed and written by Indigenous Canadians and most of the 35 historians, archaeologists, cultural experts and scholars interviewed have Indigenous ancestry. The series features an Indigenous cast of actors and cultural leaders who provide context on Indigenous history in the Americas.

“For many years it has been a dream for APTN to adapt Charles C. Mann’s groundbreaking New York Times Bestseller into a documentary miniseries,” said Jean La Rose, APTN Chief Executive Officer. “Many people are now displaying a greater openness to Indigenous perspectives and the time for this authentic story is fitting. Through the work of an amazing team of thought-provoking producers, scholars and talent, we hope to tell a new history of Indigenous Peoples in the Americas and our contributions to the world.”

Mann’s critically acclaimed book, 1491, dispels long-held theories that prior to European contact, Indigenous Peoples were largely nomadic, did not alter the natural landscape, and were not as advanced as other civilizations in the world at the time.

“I am thrilled that my book has inspired APTN and two Indigenous production companies to create a docu-drama series on the history of the Americas before Columbus’ arrival,” said Charles Mann. “I’m looking forward to seeing this team create an epic narrative of Indigenous history that is long overdue.”


 
Two award-winning filmmakers, Barbara Hager (Cree/Métis) and Lisa Jackson (Anishinaabe), directed the series in locations throughout North, Central and South America. The series was written by Barbara Hager and Marie Clements (Métis). Other key creatives include composer Russell Wallace (Lil’wat), production designer Teresa Weston, costume designer Carmen Thompson (Nuu-chah-nulth), director of photography Bob Aschmann, editors Michael Clark and Tyler F. Gamsby and narrator Dr. Evan Adams (Tla’amin).

“The opportunity to direct the dramatic scenes in this series that brings to life stories of our collective history, is both an honour and a creative challenge,” said Lisa Jackson, the series’ drama director. “My co-director Barbara Hager and I share a vision that this series must portray the history of Indigenous Peoples in an accurate, authentic and respectful way.”

Annual Downtown Eastside: Heart of the City Festival


 
The 14th annual Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival will take place during October 25 to Sunday November 5, 2017 in Vancouver. Over 100 events at over 50 locations throughout 12 days of music, stories, songs, poetry, cultural celebrations, films, theatre, dance, processions, spoken word, workshops, discussions, gallery exhibitions, mixed media, art talks, history talks and history walks.

The theme of the 2017 Festival, Honouring Women of the Downtown Eastside, pays tribute to women from all walks of life in the Downtown Eastside past and present.

A special feature this year is the premiere of MISSING a new chamber opera that gives voice to the story of Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women. The libretto is by the distinguished First Nations playwright Marie Clements and the composer is Juno-award winner Brian Current. Produced by City Opera Vancouver and Pacific Opera Victoria in partnership with Vancouver Moving Theatre/DTES Heart of the City Festival, MISSING will open in the Downtown Eastside for a private invitational audience then continue for the public at the York Theatre starting on November 3.

Other Festival highlights include: Summoning (No Words), an interactive sound installation in response to global incidents of violence against women; performances of Crow’s Nest and Other Places She’s Gone, that tells the story of two friends who face life at the edge, weaving contemporary choreography and storytelling through an indigenous lens, featuring storyteller Rosemary Georges on (Coast Salish/Dene) and dance artists Olivia C. Davies (Welsh/Metis-Anishnawbe) and Emily Long; the fabulous voices of Dalannah Gail Bowen, Renae Morriseau, Helen Duguay and Sara Cadeau in Women in the Round; and the always popular evening of jazz at Carnegie Theatre with Jazz Confluence: Carnegie Jazz Band with Brad Muirhead Quartet & Four Special Female Jazz Musicians.

The mandate of the Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival is to promote, present and facilitate the development of artists, art forms, cultural traditions, heritage, activism, people and great stories about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The festival involves a wide range of professional, community, emerging and student artists, and lovers of the arts. Over 1,000 local artists and Downtown Eastside residents participated in last year’s 2016 Festival.

Other highlights include Walking Tours. The Festival is pleased to present a new walking tour with Marcia Toms to shed light on the vital work of women in the home and the Chinatown and Strathcona neighbourhoods. Marcia draws stories of women from many different cultures and marginalized backgrounds who most often worked outside of the realm of organized labour. Born and raised in Vancouver, Marcia is a retired educator, advocate for public education and has a passion for local social history. To all interested, meet at Ovaltine Cafe, 251 E. Hastings on Sunday Oct 29, at 11am.

Also, Sneak Peek into Chinatown: Join hosts Judy Lam Maxwell and Steven Wong for a glimpse of Chinatown. Judy leads Historical Chinatown Tours and Steven is third generation ‘man about town’ in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Meet at Sai Woo, 158 E. Pender, on Saturday Nov 4, at 11am, and $10, pay what you can for local residents.

Many events are free or by suggested donation. Visit www.heartofthecityfestival.com for full details.

The Road Forward—A Film Receiving Rave Reviews for Its Honesty and Compelling History

The Road Forward is a powerful musical documentary by creator and filmmaker Marie Clements about the Native Brotherhood of BC and their struggles and tribulations to get their voice heard. The film has received rave reviews after sold-out screenings at Vancouver’s York Theatre.

The Road Forward

The Road Forward


 

The Native Brotherhood of the BC formed in the 1930s when it was illegal for native people to meet in a gathering or group. The Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood of BC were powerful organizations working towards the same cause. They brought the First Nations together as one.

This Aboriginal Blues and Rock-n-Roll film takes viewers on the journey of the struggles and determination of the characters as they fight for their Native Rights being oppressed by the government. Filmmaker Marie Clements said in the North Shore News she thought it was important to celebrate the investment needed to create change and the ensuing victories because Aboriginal people need to celebrate these as they don’t often read about Indigenous victories and celebrations.

“We don’t often hear about it, and also I think it’s important to look at issues that we’re still dealing with in a truthful way, a contemporary way,” said Marie Clements.

Clements first thought of the idea to create the film when she came across an issue of the The Native Voice – a newspaper that began publishing in the 1940s and became the official voice of the Native Brotherhood of BC. The newspaper served as the platform for the Native Brotherhood to promote their issues and voice their concerns from a native perspective.

The film educates viewers on heroes many are unfamiliar with, and offers a compelling insight and wonderful narration about events that have affected Aboriginal people. These include the Right to hunt, discrimination, the protection of Aboriginal language and culture, residential schools, the Constitution Express, the White Paper, and missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

Behind the scenes – Indian Man
Photo: © Rosamond Norbury


 

In the scene where Cheri Maracle leaves home to find work, she faces the brutal reality of the 1940s for an Aboriginal woman. She experiences racism, job refusal because of her skin colour and is unable to even check into a hotel until an unexpected stroke of kindness and opportunity. The Road Forward honours those who came before and created positive change while recognizing issues like the Murdered Indigenous Woman that still need to be resolved.

The cast includes actors, singers and narrations by Michelle St John, Russell Wallace, Cheri Maracle, Thomas Berger, Evan Adams, Leonard George, Doreen Manual, and more.

Clements has created a powerful film that must be seen to understand struggles, victories, and legacies Aboriginal people faced in the past and still confront today. Find more information on The Road Forward at WideAwake.nfb.ca

Upcoming Screenings:

  • Saturday, September 30, 5pm. The Civic Theatre 719 Vernon Street Nelson BC
  • Monday, October 16, 5pm. AGH BMO World Film Festival, Hamilton ON
  • Theatrical Release at Winnipeg Cinematheque on Saturday, October 21, 3pm; Friday, October 27, 7pm; Saturday, October 28, 7pm; and Sunday, October 29, 3pm.
  • Sunday, October 22, imagineNATIVE Closing Gala, Toronto ON
  • Tuesday, November 21, Port Hardy Civic Centre, 7440 Columbia Street, Port Hardy BC
  • Wednesday, November 22, Gate House Theatre, 11-1705 Campbell Way, Port McNeill, BC
  • Wednesday, November 22, Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, ON
  • Friday, November 29, Art Gallery of Alberta, 2 Sir Winston Churchill Square Edmonton, AB
  • Friday, January 19, 2018, 7:30pm, Eden Mills & District Community Club, 104 York Street, Eden Mills, ON

Blackfoot Actor Embracing International Recognition for Role in ‘Wonder Woman’

Cast of Wonder Woman
 

Eugene Brave Rock is the Blackfoot actor from the Blood Tribe in Southern Alberta, who is enjoying world-wide recognition for his role as “Chief,” a.k.a. “Napi,” in Wonder Woman, one of the highest grossing films of 2017. I had the chance to talk with Brave Rock and discuss how his latest role has given him international recognition, including a recent “Headdress Honour Ceremony” bestowed upon him by his own First Nation.

First, we have to include some of his film and TV acting accomplishments like The Revenant, Big Thunder TV series, Blackstone, Tin Star, Klondike and Timeless. Originally, Brave Rock began work in the industry as a movie and TV stuntman but has embraced his acting chops and grown into a fine actor.

The role as “Chief” in the DC Universe Wonder Woman came out-of-the-blue when he was on vacation and his agent contacted him to audition for a role at Warner Brothers studios. When Brave Rock asked his agent details on the part he was told the studio would give him the lines for the character when he arrived in Hollywood for his first reading.

This would be his first film audition with a major Hollywood studio and Brave Rock said he was a bit excited. Not knowing for which film he was reading made the experience even more nerve-wracking.

Eugene Brave Rock in his role as The Chief

Eugene Brave Rock in his role as “The Chief”

“I was pretty overwhelmed. I was going to the Warner Brothers studios,” Brave Rock said. “I totally blanked when I read off the script and I thought, ‘Oh well, I screwed that one up.’”

Casting told him he “nailed it” in the audition. Brave Rock said he was surprised they would say that. “Well, I thought, ‘Oh, they were just being nice and that’s probably the last I would hear from them,’” said Brave Rock.

It turned-out Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins liked something in Brave Rock and a second audition was requested and he was offered the role.

“I was completely shocked that I got the role. I then asked what the role was for but they would not initially tell me because it was ‘top secret,’” said Brave Rock.

Eventually he was told he would be “Chief” in the upcoming movie version of Wonder Woman, but that he couldn’t tell anyone he landed the role in the big budget film, not even his wife.

Brave Rock said he enjoyed working with Gal Gadot, the actor who landed the coveted role as the Amazon Princess turned Wonder Woman.

“You know she was amazing, down-to-earth, and it’s so nice to see someone in that position to be just one of the guys and spend time with all the actors; the whole cast had such an awesome time and there was a lot of good vibes on set during filming,” said Brave Rock.

Filming took over seven months in England and other locations in Europe, with four months of straight shooting. Brave Rock says he flew over the Atlantic Ocean ten times to re-shoot scenes but there were no complaints as he enjoyed the process. Plus, he wanted to get his character performance right.

In the film, when Wonder Woman and Chief first meet one another, they talk to each other in the Blackfoot language – Brave Rock’s traditional language and the original language of over 40,000 Blackfoot people from the Blood Tribe, Siksika Nation, Peigan Nation, and from the Blackfeet Nation in Montana. It was the director’s idea to introduce Chief in his Blackfoot language and they both agreed they did not want to stereotype the character even though growing up, when someone called Brave Rock “Chief,” he said “those were fighting words.”

Blackfoot is the only non-English language not subtitled in the film as it is purposely left-out by director Jenkins for dedicated fans to uncover. It didn’t take long. Certain viewers revealed that during their introductions Chief introduced himself as “Napi,” a Blackfoot demi-god.

Napi is the culture hero of the Blackfoot tribe (sometimes referred to as a “transformer” by folklorists). He is a trickster, a troublemaker, and sometimes a foolish person, but he is also responsible for shaping the world the Blackfoot live in and frequently helps the people. Brave Rock revealed on his Twitter that Napi was an actual part of the script.

Is this a big deal? Of course it is. Not only for the character, but also for the overall DC Universe (DCU). It means several things. For starters, it means that Greek Gods are not the only “real” mythological deities in the DCU. Just like in the comics, there are several pantheons out there.

Second, it means that as a demi-god, Chief is ageless, much like Wonder Woman, and could show-up again in a future Wonder Woman film, or maybe another part of the DCU.

In a compelling scene, Wonder Woman asks Chief why he isn’t fighting on either side of the war and Chief replies he doesn’t have anything to fight for. When Wonder Woman asks about that, Chief says that Steve’s people (the white man) took it all from him.

In Hollywood, First Nation people are often portrayed as one of three stereotypes: the savage, Pocahontas, or, the medicine man. However the film industry is beginning to embrace a new kind of First Nation character: authentic, real and still here. Films like Smoke Signals, Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance and Fast Runner are embracing the authentic First Nations people. Chief in Wonder Woman is just the beginning.

When asked for the most challenging part of the role, Brave Rock said the role itself was not challenging because he enjoyed every minute of the production, but then added, “The most challenging part was being away from my family; I missed the birth of my son. The attack in Paris, that was a bit scary and tough.”

Brave Rock has always wished to one day be an actor and starring in this blockbuster is something special to him.

“It has been a dream of mine since I was a kid on the reserve to be an actor. There are so many stories of our culture that we can share,” Brave Rock said. “I’ll never forget where I came from. I’ve lived in Forest Lawn (Calgary neighbourhood), Bannock Street in Lethbridge, and of course Kainai (Blood Tribe).”

Now the question is: Will the franchise decide to bring back the character of Chief in Wonder Woman 2 or any other DCU production? This is a question Brave Rock couldn’t answer since there is so much secrecy involved with a sequel.

As for the future, Brave Rock will be in post-production as a stunt performer in an upcoming film. He is enjoying the amazing response to Wonder Woman and how it has ignited his acting career.

“I will take every opportunity that is there, there are so many stories out there,” said Brave Rock.

The Drum is Calling Festival

This is one event you don’t want to miss! The Drum is Calling Festival is a one of a kind, once in a lifetime event, providing an opportunity for everyone to celebrate Vancouver’s three Host Nations. Saturday July 22 celebrate the opening of this Festival with a free pancake breakfast for the first 500 guests arriving at Larwill Park (688 Cambie + Georgia).

The City of Vancouver, the world’s first official City of Reconciliation, has created the Drum is Calling Festival in partnership with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. This 9-day festival will feature cultural traditions, traditional and cutting-edge arts, music, dance, film, poetry, PowWow, and much more.

Highlighting the festival will be stellar performances from iconic artists such as singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, PowWowStep creator DJ Shub, singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk, country sensation Crystal Shawanda, northern Ontario rockers Midnight Shine, Juno Award winner William Prince, rising R&B star George Leach, genre-defying artist Kinnie Starr, literary giant Tomson Highway, and powerful spoken word poet Shane Koyczan and The Short Story Long.

Additional highlights will include hands-on workshops and live programming inside the Indigenous housing forms built by the Kanata Festival on Turtle Island. The inaugural Indigenous Fashion Week is the brainchild of former international model Joleen Mitton. The show will feature the consolidated and emerging artists of Indigenous fashion design and modelling. While Having Soup is a powerful installation in which over the amount of time it takes to consume a bowl of soup, Indigenous and non-Indigenous Vancouverites will engage in a “three-course” dialogue about charged issues during Canada 150+.

There will be hands-on workshops, and live programming inside the site including Theatre for Young People presented by Shaw Communications Inc., carving and weaving workshops, play readings, curated short films by the National Film Board, From Oral to Written presented in partnership with Talonbooks and the Vancouver Writers Fest and the best of authentic Indigenous artisans, vendors and food. Exhibition games and a Basketball tournament will be taking place in adjacent streets. A spectacular night of intercultural drumming will ignite the thunderous power of dancers and drummers from around the world and is led by renowned percussionist and cultural collaborator Sal Ferraras.

Festivalgoers will experience something new every day. The artistic and cultural program will be in sync with the theme of each day, starting July 22 with 3-Host Nation Day, and followed up with Our Elders Day, Matriarch Day, 7 Generations – Youth Day Presented by Shaw Communications Inc., Warriors Day, Friendship Day, Gathering Our Relations Day, Transformation Day and closing the festival on July 30 with Intertribal In Action Day.

Oh, did I mention, all events are FREE! Taking place in the heart of downtown at Larwill Park, bounded by Cambie & Beatty streets and Georgia and Dunsmuir streets in downtown Vancouver, everyone is welcome. Those activities taking place at the Queen Elizabeth theatre and Vancouver Playhouse theatre require tickets. Tickets are free and links to register online are available at canada150plus.ca/drum/

Friends and families alike can share what we all have in common – our joys, fears, hopes and dreams through film, song, literature and dance.
For information and full schedule of events visit canada150plus.ca

Angry Inuk: Looking into Impacts of Seal Hunt Bans

In 1983, after animal activists groups like Green Peace were able to convince the European Union to ban products made from whitecoat harp seal pups, everything changed for the worst for Inuit people in the Canadian arctic. If that wasn’t enough, yet another ban in 2009 by the European Union caused even more hardship for the Inuit people who rely on their seal hunt to sustain their livelihood, their culture and economy.

“Angry Inuk,” a film by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, enlightens viewers by providing background on the reality behind the anti-seal hunt demonstrations and those using whitecoat harp seal pups as their slogan. By portraying the helpless baby white seal as their poster darling, animal activists have been able to, time and again, convince world governments and the public that hunting seals is “evil and cruel” and unnecessary.

Arnaquq-Baril is narrator for the compelling documentary, which was filmed over a seven-year period beginning in the spring of 2008. The film shows the pristine landscape of the Nunavut Territory in the Canadian Arctic and looks into the Inuit people and their way of life. It explains how the seal hunt is so much a fundamental part of Inuit culture.

In one scene, Aaju Peter, a seal skin designer and a lawyer for Inuit Seal Hunting Rights, is admiring a picture of two children with their faces smeared with seal blood while enjoying eating seal. Peter explains, “To other people, this probably looks scary. But to us, this is cute.”

After the 1983 seal hunt ban was imposed, most Inuit people had no choice but to move away from their traditional grounds and into town because the price of seal skin completely crashed. Most Inuit had to find odd jobs creating carvings and perform whatever other jobs they could find. But the Inuit still had to hunt seal for food.

Arnaquq-Baril said the 1983 ban was their “Great Depression” as it was a life altering event for the Inuit. Within a year of the ban the suicide rate spiked even higher and has risen to rank among the highest globally ever since.

“Suicide was once a rare thing in the Inuit community. As a result of traumas from residential school abuse, forestry relocation, and other destructive government policies, Inuit people began taking their lives at alarming rates,” narrates Arnaquq-Baril in “Angry Inuk.” “In 1983 it was yet another layer of stress on our communities causing widespread hunger and hardships.”

In 2009, the filmmaker followed a group of Inuit representative who traveled to the European Union Parliament to voice their opinion on banning the seal hunt. The viewer will see their efforts were futile and did not change world leaders’ minds on the vote.

“Angry Inuk” is a film worth watching and may even change your thoughts on the Seal Hunt Ban lobbied for by Green Peace – an organization responsible for successfully implanting the erroneous image of the “evil and killing of the baby white seal” in the minds of those not educated to the facts of Inuit life.

Just Announced Tanya Tagaq to perform at The Drum is Calling Festival this July

TANYA TAGAQ – photo by Katrin Braga

Playing to major festivals and packed houses all over the world you don’t want to miss

Experimental vocalist and artist Tanya Tagaq who will be headlining The Drum is Calling Festival on July 24 at Larwill Park. This award-winning Inuk throat singer released her latest album Retribution in 2016 and in 2014 won the Polaris Prize for best Canadian album for Animism.

BUFFY SAINT MARIE

The City of Vancouver’s Canada 150+ signature event The Drum is Calling is a nine-day, immersive festival of Indigenous and diverse arts and culture. Highlighting the festival will be stellar performances from iconic artists such as singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie who will be the opening headliner, PowWowStep creator DJ Shub, singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk, country sensation Crystal Shawanda, northern Ontario rockers Midnight Shine, Juno Award winner William Prince, rising R&B star George Leach, genre-defying artist Kinnie Starr, literary giant Tomson Highway, and powerful spoken word poet Shane Koyczan and The Short Story Long.

For those drum lovers, a must-see will be a spectacular night of Drums over Salish Sea in July 27. This intercultural drumming will ignite the thunderous power of dancers and drummers from around the world and is led by renowned percussionist and cultural collaborator Sal Ferraras.

Artistic Program

Saturday July 22:        Bitterly Divine, Murray Porter, Buffy Sainte-Marie
Sunday July 23:           William Prince, Crystal Shawanda, Tom Jackson
Monday July 24:          Amanda Rheaume, Susan Aglukark,Tanya Tagaq
Tuesday July 25:          Shamik Bilgi, Boom Booms with Ta’Kaiya Blaney, Midnight Shine
Wednesday July 26:   Dj Kookum
Thursday July 27:        The Jerry Cans, Drums over the Salish Sea
Friday July 28:            Donny Parenteau, Sierra Noble, Chantal Kreviazuk
Saturday July 29:        George Leach, Kinnie Starr, DJ Shub
Sunday July 30:           Leonard Sumner, Leela Gilday, Shane Koyczan and The Short Story Long

Attendees can expect much more than just music; additional highlights will include hands-on workshops and live programming inside the Indigenous housing forms built by the Kanata Festival on Turtle Island. While Having Soup is a powerful installation in which over the amount of time it takes to consume a bowl of soup, Indigenous and non-Indigenous Vancouverites will engage in a “three-course” dialogue about charged issues during Canada 150+.

SHANE KOYCZAN

As part of the festival, the inaugural Indigenous Fashion Week will feature the super-stars and emerging artists of Indigenous fashion design and modelling. The show is the brainchild of former international model Joleen Mitton.

Other forms of art will include carving exhibitions, curated short films by the National Film Board, Theatre for Young people presented by Shaw Communications Inc., and From Oral to Written presented in partnership with the Vancouver Writers Fest.

CHANTAL KREVIAZUK

Artistic Director Margo Kane and the curators have themed each day, so festival-goers will experience something new at every return visit. From honouring our Host Nations to Elders and Matriarch to Youth, Warriors, and Friends, the themes bring together cultural presentations such as theatre, play readings, carving and weaving workshops, literary and speaker series, and film screenings. The best of authentic Indigenous artisans, vendors and food will be on site to nourish your mind, body, and soul.

The Festival’s main venue Larwill Park will feature a festival zone with stages, food and craft vendors, exhibits and more. Activities and performances will also take place at adjacent streets and plazas, including other venues such as Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Playhouse Theatre.

Events are free however some indoor venues may require advance registration. For more information on these events and programming for Celebration 150+ please visit the website at canada150plus.ca

NIMIIWE: First Nations Roots and Traditions Inspire Dance Production Ready for World Premiere

By Kelly Many Guns

Native Earth Performing Arts presents NIMIIWE, an Indigenous dance double bill featuring Brian Solomon’s ‘The NDN Way’ and Margaret Grenier and Karen Jamieson’s ‘Light Breaking Broken’. The production is going to premiere at AKI Studio in Toronto from March 30th to April 1st, 2017.

First Nations Drum spoke with both Solomon and Grenier about their productions, discovering that their dance performances feature similar back-stories about keeping traditional cultures alive through contemporary movement.

Brian Solomon

Brian Solomon

Solomon – Anishinaabe/Irish background – first envisioned what would become ‘The NDN Way’ when he first heard Cindy Bisaillon’s award-winning 1974 CBC documentary ‘The Indian Way’.

“I was friends with Cindy Bisaillon’s daughter, and she mentioned this interview that was done back in 1974,” said Solomon. “So I listened to the cassette tape, and I was blown away with what I was hearing. I told myself, ‘man, this needs to be rescued from the past’.”

‘The Indian Way’ was comprised of an interview with a young Métis-Cree man from Northern Saskatchewan, Ron Evans, who was a teacher/philosopher living in Toronto.

“He spoke so incredibly about the Cree culture, philosophies, and traditional ways, and his explanation of the life cycle in 60-minutes is something astonishing to me. I’ve never heard anyone speak this way,” said Solomon. “From that interview you get a good sense that the language was different then, there’s none of this ‘politically correct’ jargon that we have today. We were called ‘Indian’ back then.”

Mariana Medellin-Meinke

Mariana Medellin-Meinke

Solomon says one thing that caught his attention during the interview was when Evan’s said that “… the white culture is running away from death, while the Indian are running towards death and are constantly preparing for death.”

It is Evans way of thinking and speaking that inspired Solomon to bring those thoughts and visions to ‘The NDN Way’.

Solomon says he studied as a visual artist. He usually begins with one big moving picture when starting a piece, and often incorporates storytelling.

“I grew up in the northern bush, and not with a lot of traditional teachings. But since I moved to the city at age 17, I’ve found that a lot of young people still carry the spirit of their traditional roots – within their everyday lives, inside concrete walls, in the city they live in.”

Solomon will take his audience through a brilliant synthesization of Cree belief structures, using it as an ‘atmospheric departure point’ from which a full visual and visceral world is created. Solomon re-imagines, remixes, and interprets these philosophies about medicine, pipe ceremonies, sweat lodges, and death in a highly theatrical, visual art-warp, using the original grainy tape as part of the soundscape.

Margaret Grenier

Margaret Grenier

Grenier – Gitxsan and Cree background – talked about how she developed ‘Light Breaking Broken’, which is a creative collaboration with Chalmers Award winning dance artist Karen Jamieson. These women are Vancouver-based contemporary dance artists who identify and draw upon radically different cultural traditions and protocols.

The work explores the subject of light breaking through ignorance, and the paradox of ‘broken’ from different perspectives. ‘Light Breaking Broken’ is the personal journey of two artists reconnecting with language, culture, and identity, honouring the past while locating itself in the creative present.

“I have a long history with Karen, I am happy about this duel collaboration,” said Grenier. “I am a trained traditional coastal dancer and use this form within my performances.”

Grenier says the story of ‘Light Breaking Broken’ was inspired from the potlatches 70-year ban, which was finally lifted in 1951.

Karen Jamieson

Karen Jamieson

First Nations in BC were not allowed to practice any form of the ceremony. The federal government felt that the process of assimilation was not progressing with adequate speed. In response, the Canadian government passed amendments to the Indian Act in 1884. First Nations chiefs used potlatches to pass down names, songs, dances, and rights from one generation to the next. Both males and females participated in potlatch ceremonies.

The potlatch was also a time when wealth was distributed throughout the community. The potlatch displayed the wealth of the chief to his communities and guest communities. In these times, though, wealth was not based on the European concept of how much one had accumulated. Instead, it was an Aboriginal concept based on how much a hosting chief or family could give to guests during the potlatch, and how much hospitality was shown to guests.

“When the potlatches ban was finally lifted, a lot of the elders had lost some of the traditional cultures. They could not really teach, or hand down those teachings and beliefs,” explains Grenier. “In many ways, this was a broken period of our history.”
Grenier says she would like audiences to envision that her and Jamieson are having a conversation through their dance performance, and envision the story of the return of the potlatch.

“This production expresses my identity, and who I am,” said Grenier.

The 40-minute performance of ‘Light Breaking Broken’ uses video and production with the concept of light.

Audiences attending the NIMIIWE will be in for a great visual and dance performance experience.