First Peoples’ Performing Arts Festival returned for fifth year

Theme encouraged cultural education and exploration

The festival offered a range of events and performances.
Credit: 
Supplied by FPPAF

The First Peoples’ Performing Arts Festival of the Thousand Islands ran from Oct. 15 to 17 in Gananoque. This year marked the festival’s fifth edition.

Its theme of “First, Now and Always” signifies how Indigenous peoples first occupied this land and will continue living and flourishing here.

The Journal spoke to Frayne McCarthy, artistic director of King Street Productions, and Shannon Olivier, a member of First Peoples Circle and a performer in this year’s festival.

“Education is very much a part of the mandate of the festival,” McCarthy said. “This is an Indigenous arts festival for everybody to share culture and open people’s eyes to the first peoples who have been here, are here now, and will be here.”

The festival featured events and performances included a screening of Brittany Leborgue’s film BEANS, a First Peoples’ Water Walk, and an acting workshop led by Kevin John Saylor and Kyle Zachary.

The festival also included a Makers’ Market welcoming Indigenous artisans to share and sell their artistry and crafts.

Shannon Olivier and her 10-year-old daughter Kiki also performed “The Mother Daughter Connection.” The duo explored the passing of tradition and knowledge from one generation to the next through traditional dances and storytelling.

The inclusion of videos made by Kiki highlighted their mother-daughter bond.

“I asked my daughter if she wanted to specifically do anything for [the performance], and she said she wanted to use some of her videos, so she created one of the videos for it,” Olivier said.

The presentation of “The Mother Daughter Connection” was Olivier’s first time performing for an audience in 10 years and was young Kiki’s debut performance.

“When I asked my daughter how she felt after [we performed], she said, ‘It was really awesome,’” Olivier said.

“She got the performance high afterwards.”

The festival was held in-person with limited seating. Live streaming over Facebook allowed a larger audience to enjoy the performances, too.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, audience turnout for this year’s festival paled in comparison to previous years. However, McCarthy and Olivier said those who attended were as excited and supportive as ever.

Olivier said she felt a sense of intimacy with the audience because she knew most of the attendees. For her and Kiki, recognizing the faces of those in the crowd helped them relax during their performance and feel more empowered.

The First Peoples’ Performing Arts Festival continues to grow and encourage people to educate themselves on Indigenous culture and history. It remains a space for Indigenous artists to showcase their talents while embracing their cultures and heritage.

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