FNU Powwow – Photo by Jeanelle Mandes
This week’s reading was awesome and reminded me of the incredible power of performance. We can say SO much by sharing our experiences in this medium and am grateful to read about these powerful people spreading their message of perseverance, reconciliation and finding belonging among one another. As I mentioned in class, I am intrigued by Boal’s idea of spec-actors rather than spectators to theatre that is intended to ignite change. In the reading, “DECLARATION: When Indians Act” by Andy Moro they share that each work day they offer a “Declare” session where the artist works and talks with the audience. Afterward they are invited into an open jam space where they create pieces for the evening performance. “The excellence comes in trusting the process and each other.” (p. 80). By including the audience I think it removes the “easy out” that some proscenium shows offer because the audience is so disconnected being in that space. Space is such an incredibly important part of theatre and situating ourselves in a space is crucial if we want to ensure theatre is safe for everyone. We must remember all of the important questions such as, who’s story is this? Who is telling it? And why? “Ever conscious of space, we honour the innumerable unnamed artists whose works appear in this and in other museums across the country…” (p.80). We can honour those around us but being cognizant of whom has come before, and who will come after. Theatre, such as the performance diorama’s from Deceleration can be used a strong voice to ignite change and start important discussions. At the end of the article it spoke about the heartbreaking story of Chief Mi’sel Joe trying to get the remains of his people back to a sacred resting place and it made me think of the complete disconnect settlers have with the fact that Indigenous people are STILL LIVING! Indigenous people and their varied culture are not extinct, are not just museums staples, but living, breathing, practicing communities and need to be respected and treated as such. This inexcusable disconnect is what causes settlers to feel as though “artifacts” and “remains” and “findings” are there own. I made the connection to the Residential School Cemetery here in Regina. Years ago, the city was going to run a large pipeline directly through the sacred burial ground but Indigenous people and ally’s fought back and in 2017 it was finally designated an official heritage site and therefore could not be torn down or disrupted. If the application for a pipeline would have been made to disrupt ANY other Regina cemetery the public outcry would not have been ignored. Why this double standard? Work like Declaration is imperative in keeping hard, but crucial conversations going. We need to heal together…through settlers listening and giving a voice to those who have had it taken.
I drew some connections between the article “We can write it better’: Theatre has a role to play in reconciliation” by Shannon Boklaschuk and “Native from the core”: Enoch students perform decolonial holiday hip hopera by Moira Wyton. The first, was the conversation regarding the story, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, of an Indigenous woman, told by a white man. What privilege to be able to profit off the troubled history of Canada and it’s Indigenous people. When the production was re-staged 40 years later, there was more thought given to the fact that “nothing has changed for so many First Nations people” (Nolan, p.2) however, my main question is why? Why has nothing changed? Nolan recounts seeing her and her Mother’s experience on stage for the first time, but they were forced to relive their trauma told by a white person. Although theatre does offer Indigenous and non-Indigenous people a platform to work through and discuss issues, we must be so cautious that although there could be pure, good intent harm and un-safety can still be caused. We must allow the oppressed to take the lead. My connection to the Wyton articled lied in thinking about what could have been if the “Dr. Sioux’s How the Neech Stole Christmas” had been taken on by a slough of white teachers. Although the intent of decolonization could have potentially been there, the oppressed would not have been taking the lead in their own stories.
My final takeaway is one that will resonate with me everyday as I teach – REPRESENTATION MATTERS!!! Say it louder for the people in the back! “We felt like nothing really represented the kids as native youth.” RedCloud, p.3). If you can’t see yourself there, where ever there is, how do you know you can do it? We need our kids to be able to celebrate themselves and part of that is seeing themselves in a positive light in the media and in the literature we use in schools. “The set also depicts Oilers-themed tipi buildings, the nation’s Shell gas station, and the River Cree Resort and Casino, which RedCloud says were important for students to see represented”. (p. 4). This ties back to how important place is – to feel truly seen and represented we must respect the spaces in which our students come from and understand that they too are an important part of representation.
Overall, “we really believe that through theatre, music, art – it helps break that wall down”. (p. 3). I am grateful to work in a profession where I can use art in all capacities to reach my students and encourage them to proud of themselves and where they come from.
“Educating the mind, without educating the heart,
is no education at all.” – Aristotle