NATIONAL ABORIGINAL DAY: Is Canada Doing Enough?

A male and female performer in Indigenous dress with city scape behind themImage from Kaha:wi Dance Theatre performing “The Honouring” tonight & tomorrow @ 9:15 pm @ Fort York, Toronto, Performances are Free.

No.

Days of recognition are always problematic. There are celebrations for everything from Water to Women. In an age where a well branded campaign can get an issue talk time does the message get diluted when those commemorative days are reduced down to a quick and digestible moment of  cultural exchange?

When I bring up the Residential School System with non-native friends its shocking how no one seems to have much of an idea of what this is and what took place – is still taking place.

Genocides? Only happen in places with exotic names. Not here.

Slavery? That happened in America.

Apartheid? Nope.

Cultural Amnesia? Never heard of this.

Exactly!

Most Canadians no little about the history of Indigenous Peoples here in Canada and their experience of Indigenous culture is at arm’s length – behind glass in a museum, a film with questionable stereotypes, a Canada Day performance.

So on this National Aboriginal Day here’s a challenge for Canadians – let’s start to get acquainted with not only the history of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people but also the contemporary issues that we as a country are connected to and implicated in.

If experiencing the Arts is your way to expose your mind to new narratives that’s great because we have so many amazing contemporary Aboriginal artists in this country and MIXED BAG MAG will continue to post on all the incredible talent. Best part – there’s probably something to experience the other 364 days of the year!

FRIDAY FOOD FOR THOUGHT

National Aboriginal Day: Friend or foe?
By Sarah Hunt for Media Indigena

“Today, June 21, is Canada’s National Aboriginal Day. This morning, like most other days, I woke up, made my coffee, and sat down to read the news. The consensus seems to be that today is a day to celebrate Aboriginal cultures and to remember our vibrant history within Canada.

In the newspapers, stories of celebration and cultural performance encourage all Canadians to learn about us, to let us share our cultures with them, and to celebrate Aboriginals as part of Canada’s strong foundation of diversity. And, like most other days, I also read stories about the ongoing struggles for Indigenous land rights, protection of Indigenous grave sites, and recognition of high rates of violence. Yet I further notice that coverage of these concurrent realities — the celebration and the struggles — seem to be kept very separate, as though they cannot exist together, or are somehow irreconcilable in the minds of Canadians and the federal government.”  Read more on Media Indigena

MIXED BAG MAG recommends joining this important project “Walking With Our Sisters” on their Facebook Group.

Over 600+ native women in Canada are reported missing or murdered in the last 20 years. Many vanished without a trace with inadequate inquiry into their disappearance or slaying paid by the media, the general public, politicians and even law enforcement. This is a travesty of justice.

Walking With Our Sisters is a commemorative art installation of 600+ moccasin vamps (tops) created and donated by hundreds of caring and concerned individuals to draw attention to this injustice.” Read more on www.walkingwithoursisters.ca

Image of the beaded tops of moccasins

GIMME ONE RIDDIM: Ska & The Soundtrack to Jamaica’s Freedom

Poster with image of a black couple from the 60s dancing

Ska – Jamaica’s new freedom soundtrack having recently gained independence from the United Kingdom.

“It is the year 1963. The heat of the island is soaring through the rooftops and rising from the dancing bodies at the Sounds Systems street party in Kingston, Jamaica.  The new sound and love of music in this island, resides in the heart and soul of ‘ska.’ A unique musical blend of rhythmic African music and New Orleans jazz, this sweet, new and popular sound pumps through the speakers and resonates through the island becoming Jamaica’s new freedom soundtrack having recently gained independence from the United Kingdom after 300 years. This is it; a new sound, a new musical revolution, a new meaning, a new life, a new creation of history influencing the island and the world forever.”(cited from Gimme One Riddim website)

Gimme One Riddim is the newest work by Toronto talent Jasmyn Fyffe. Jasmyn, along with Natasha Powell, co-produced and choreographed this play

Gimme One Riddim runs March 13 – 15
Winchester Street Theatre
80 Winchester Street
Toronto, ON M4X 1B2
Click here for a map

The Ska beat and style aesthetic went on to inspire mashup culture in places like Coventry, England with the 2 Tone genre – a criss-crossing of Ska, Rocksteady, Punk, New Wave and Reggae whose vibrations crossed an ocean to inspire more fusing in places like Southern California with bands like Fishbone and No Doubt. For many people I know the 2nd and 3rd wave of Ska was the soundtrack of their youth!

And what a great soundtrack it was! Thanks Jamaica! One love!

Grab your tickets on the Gimme One Riddim Eventbrite page.

THE SPIRIT OF SANKOFA: Looking Back at the History of African Dance with Esie Mensah

“Many dances of the past we are still doing in the present”

Each year Harbourfront Centre hosts the KUUMBA Festival to kick off Black History Month. This year take advantage of Toronto dancer / choreographer Esie Mensah’s “A Journey Through African Dance.”

It was very important for me to showcase Africa over the decades. Being a part of a traditional African group I wanted people to experience where many dances originated from. As I did research I realized that many of those dances from the past we are still doing in the present so I turned to the music. In showcasing the dance I am showcasing the music of Africa over the decades. You will see Africa from the traditional, afrobeat (40-70s) and azonto (present). We see people be inspired by politics, love, and just feeling good. I want to represent Africa in a beautiful light. When we appreciate our history we can continue to be innovative at any point in our lives.”
~Esie Mensah

Along with her evening talk Esie will also be leading an Afrofusion dance class at 3 pm. And if dance classes are your thing why not grab a snack then return at 6 pm for more Toronto dance talent – Jasmyn Fyffe with be teaching a workshop in Contemporary Dance.

All events at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre as part of KUUMBA.
Get the latest on  Esie on twitter @EsieMensah & Jasmyn on twitter @JasmynFyffe.

Female dancer leaping into air on beach with water and rocks behind her
Image of Jasymn Fyffe by Rob Rogers.
Female dancer jumping up into air in studio with mirror behind herImage of Esie Mensah by TOPortfolio.

 

PLANET INDIGENOUS @ HARBOURFRONT: Sunday by the Lake

First Nations dancers performing at Harbourfront's Planet Indigenus Festival

The weekend wrapup for Summerworks & Planet IndigenUS!

The rain never came this weekend and it was a good thing as MIXED BAG MAG was all over the city! Saturday was www.summerworks.ca and Waawaate Fobister’s “Medicine Boy” along with www.queenwestmusicfest.com over at Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Figuring we would pay for the forecasted rain that never came on Saturday, it was a welcome surprise when Sunday turned out to be as stunning as the day before. With the combination of stellar weather and the closing of Planet IndigenUS, Harbourfront was packed out. MIXED BAG MAG attended Canadian-Mexican artist Rodrigo Marti’s tour of the PowerPlant’s current exhibit “ Tools for Conviviality” then headed over to take in 3 exhibits at Harbourfront Centre –  “Not So Fast | NSF”, “BORN AGAIN: Repurposed City”, and ”This We Know” an exhibition of recent work by the students in the Aboriginal Visual Culture Program at OCAD U.

Next it was all about relaxing – listening to music performed by Aboriginal artists with the backdrop of the lake, chatting with tourists then drinking fresh coconut water that made one feel like a tourist languishing somewhere in a more tropical locale rather than Lake Ontario!  Planet IndigenUS ‘s finale was First Nations dancers wrapping up the festival by getting the crowd engaged in a round dance that shifted happily into something not so circular but nonetheless organic and full of life.

But that was not the final moment for MIXED BAG MAG. Sunday ended later on that evening with another www.summerworks.ca  play  – “FRANCE or the Niqab” at Theatre Passe Muraille.

This is what MIXED BAG MAG loves about Toronto – you can experience the world in a weekend!

First Nations dancers performing at Harbourfront's Planet Indigenus Festival
First Nations dancers performing at Harbourfront's Planet Indigenus Festival
First Nations dancers performing at Harbourfront's Planet Indigenus Festival
First Nations dancers performing at Harbourfront's Planet Indigenus Festival
First Nations dancers performing at Harbourfront's Planet Indigenus Festival
First Nations dancers performing at Harbourfront's Planet Indigenus Festival
First Nations dancers performing at Harbourfront's Planet Indigenus Festival
Planet Indigenus Logo

Photography by Leah Snyder