Festival envisions Indigenous resurgence

Isabel Bader Centre events capture diversity of artwork

ShoShana Kish in the music video for AK-47.
Screenshot from YouTube.

Attendees at the Ka’tarohkwi Indigenous Arts Festival will see artwork free of restrictions. 

The Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts is hosting the festival throughout February and March. It’ll feature Indigenous performance artists, films, and musicians, celebrating their work and innovation in Canada.

The festival is being held alongside the Soundings exhibit currently on display at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. 

“We are excited to share this diverse array of performances by acclaimed Indigenous artists working across theatre, dance, music, film and performance art,” said Soundings curator, Dylan Robinson, in a Queen’s media release. 

The festival, which crosses all disciplines, is an exciting opportunity for the Isabel and the Agnes to work alongside some of the top artists in Canada—as well as to work collaboratively together. 

“Dylan has the most amazing ability to identify, just top artists,” Isabel Director Tricia Baldwin said. “There’s a lot of social justice involved right now with Indigenous arts, but he sees Indigenous arts as a statement of a really diverse community’s cultures. We’ve invested a lot in the world premieres of some of these works.” 

One work that Baldwin is particularly excited about is the “Biidaaban: First Light VR,” by Anishinaabe artist Lisa Jackson and 3D artist Matthew Borrett. The project looks at a radically different future Toronto. In this re-envisioning, the city has been reclaimed by nature and people must consider how they fit into this new landscape. 

For Baldwin, the dystopian tomorrow trope has been flipped on its head to show a better future—a theme throughout the works. 

“We’re actually seeing this really positive, creative statement of who [Indigenous people] are. Rather than, ‘this is the community that went through the residential school system,’ what’s great about this festival is that it’s actually celebrating people’s culture. It’s a very positive celebration, but it’s not holding back any punches when it comes to the past, and past treatment,” Baldwin said. 

Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation) Kanonhysonne (Janice Hill) thinks that the festival and exhibit offer people a chance to look more honestly at Indigenous cultures in Canada. 

“My understanding from recent research is there are still a lot of Canadians, and a lot of young Canadians, or people who live in Canada, who don’t really understand the current and present realities of Indigenous people and that we exist here today and in many forms,” Hill said. 

For non-Indigenous viewers and audiences, she believes it’s important that they approach the artwork with an open mind to gain an understanding. She emphasized the artwork was a chance for artists to express their truth to be shared with others. 

For Indigenous viewers, Hill hopes that the exhibit and festival can be a chance for people to reconnect and reclaim their culture. 

“[Reconciliation] is about a reclamation of our ways of knowing and being and our languages and our place in the world,” Hill said.

“Art is a way to bridge that—it’s a way to give Indigenous people access to knowledge they may not have formerly had access to, and it’s a way to give the non-indigenous population access to the same knowledge and maybecreate a better understanding of how we got to be where we are right now.” 

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