All posts by Native Earth

Jeanette Kotowich: How do we give thanks?

Vancouver-based Cree/Métis choreographer and dance artist Jeanette Kotowich shares her character-derived performance Eloise for the closing night of Weesageechak 31. Bringing insight to the practice of honouring traditional territory, Eloise honours the inner terrain of the body, our ties to land, and the experiences that we carry from the land we have come and the land on which we currently stand.

“It was inspired by my personal reflection of territorial acknowledgement – a self-reflection of my identity as a mixed blood person and my relationship with the two distinct landscapes I call home (Treaty 4 territory of Saskatchewan, and the Coast of British Columbia). Eloise references the many different languages of dance and the cultural practices which I have chosen to steward through my artistic career.”

The performance experience is a provocation, asking the question “How do we give thanks?” Jeanette invites the audiences to think about our personal relationship with the land and the act of territorial acknowledgement as a humble and daily practice.

The last time Jeanette attended the festival was in 2016 with her solo work Steppin’, a contemporary expression of Métis jigging, and she will return to Native Earth in February 2019 with Raven Spirit Dance’s Gathering Light.

Catch Jeanette Kotowich’s Eloise in her Turtle Island Persona Tour tonight!


More about Jeanette Kotowich

What piece are you looking forward to seeing at W31?
As much as I can! This is always my festie approach.

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
Oh gosh, there are so many people who have supported my growth and development over the years, who have come into my life to mentor me in unique and invaluable ways.

To name the top few…Yvonne Chartrand, Margaret Grenier, Charles Koroneho, Starr Muranko, Michelle Olson, and Carlos Rivera. Each is steadfast in their strength, generosity, grace, and determination.

Where do you find inspiration for your creative work?
I find inspiration from looking deep inside my questions and curiosities about identity and reflecting on contemporary modes of expression that honour my ancestors.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Those who are ready to receive you, will.”

Do you have any advice for young Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Listen to your inner voice. Create from that place. Be true to that voice, and the rest will follow.

What does art mean to you?
My artistic practice is everything to me. It is not just a career choice or a way to pay rent. It is a life vocation.

What’s coming up next for you?
I am currently developing a full-length, innovative, solo performance called Valley, with the generous support of Canada Council. Collaboratively directed by Charles Koroneho and I, alongside artistic collaborators Jonathan Kim, Wayne Lavellee, and Brady Marks, Valley is an interdisciplinary expression of the journey to one’s self. It is deeply tied to kisiskâciwan, the “fast flowing” landscape of Saskatchewan. A creative returning to land, body and identity, the work unfolds out of the robust and undulating land of my grandmothers’ mothers and great-great grandfathers.

Development is taking place throughout 2018/19: www.movementhealing.ca.

All photos by Daniel Paquet 


Tai Grauman: I’m craving an epic Métis love story

After a great performance in our presentation of Vancouver Moving Theatre’s Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way this June, we welcome back Vancouver-based theatre artist Tai Grauman, this time to Weesageechak with her latest work-in-progress You used to call me Marie.

Inspired to create a play for Marie Callihoo, You used to call me Marie centers on the history of Treaty 6 through the perspective of Marie. “I’ve always wanted to build Marie Callihoo’s history as she is only ever mentioned within her husband’s documented history. More specifically, I wanted to write her story with Louis. I always saw their story as an epic Métis love story. The more and more I dug into their story, I realized that I couldn’t tell their story without including their ancestors and their family who came after them.”

Following two souls in five different Indigenous love stories at five distinct periods in history, You used to call me Marie begins the journey in the pre-colonial time within the plains Cree community, and eventually leads to the final life of two young Métis people where the man marries a non-Indigenous woman, disrupting the bloodline. Through alternate forms of theatrical structure, the piece explores the ways a young woman inherits trauma from the matriarchs in the family. “I want to remind audience members to protect the young women in the family.”

Through Weesageechak, Tai hopes to work with Indigenous creators, actors, and dramaturgs to further grow the piece beyond the “Western” structure of a “play” and decolonize the way in which the script frames her Métis stories.

Don’t miss Tai Grauman’s newest piece You used to call me Marie tonight – Friday, November 23rd!


More about Tai Grauman

What piece are you looking forward to seeing at W31?
I’m really looking forward to seeing Quelemia Sparrow’s Women of Papiyek. I have loved that play ever since I read it for the first time. I’m looking forward to seeing what she has done with it.

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
I have several: Margo Kane, Lindsay Lachance, Kevin Loring, Chelsea McPeake and Quelemia Sparrow.

They are all incredible forces within the Indigenous Theatre community. They are all incredibly busy and have all taken time to teach me, talked me through situations I had a hard time navigating, and handed me opportunities just so I can grow. Not only does their work inspire me, but so does the kindness they have shown me.

Where do you find inspiration for your creative work?
My family and our history.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Make hay while the sun shines!

Do you have any advice for young Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Godspeed!

What are you craving right now?
I’m craving an epic Métis love story (which is what I’m trying to do with my play). I’m craving a play rooted and dripping in history. I’m craving looking backwards to move forward.

What’s coming up next for you?
After Weesageechak, I am staying in Toronto and working on another play called Her name is Marie, which is also about Marie Callihoo and a companion piece to You used to call me Marie, with Nightswimming. Brian and Brittany commissioned the piece as part of their 5x 25 initiative last year, and I’m really looking forward to hanging out and working on the play with them.


Nyda Kwasowsky: Hopefulness from Struggle and Survival

Choreographer/dancer Nyda Kwasowsky comes to Weesageechak with her newest piece Land of Many Waters, which was previously developed at The Bentway’s “This is Our Place” residency and Sketch’s Indie Studio residency. Inspired by the richness of her mixed racial background, Nyda uses movement language to examine self to share human experiences.

Land of Many Waters is an exploration and research into the ambiguous interior that she embodies and how this translates to my external space in relationship with her identity. “My research voices a versatile spectrum of stories from marginalized communities that have experienced generational cultural oppression. This multi-layered work shares the continued complexities of colonization, voicing the millennial experience, and our continued efforts to understand how we hold our space as autonomous individuals in collective society presently.”

Through a structured dance improvisation, spoken work, music and interview material, this work-in-progress delves into concepts of vulnerability, humility, undefined self, conflict, and growth.

“I want to share a sense of hopefulness that comes from a place of strength, struggle and survival.”

Catch Nyda Kwasowsky’s Land of Many Waters today at 7:30 pm!


More about Nyda Kwasowsky

What piece are you looking forward to seeing at W31?
I am looking forward to experiencing and acknowledging many voices and stories that will be shared through the festival’s programming this year!

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
My family is my role model in radiating resilience, perseverance and strength which is my source of power as a creative. In order to share the expression of who and what my body has experienced generationally through movement language. The richness and beauty of culture that survived colonial powers will continue to drive my motor in voicing our stories, connecting broken landscapes and creating space for us to hold.

Where do you find inspiration for your creative work?
My internal landscape is my inspirational motor. It directs narratives and intuitive choices that inform my movement languages and expression, in creating context and content to conceptual realities.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
“Create work from a place of strength” This was recently shared with me and it resonates with my current practice!

What does art mean to you?
Art is the understanding of one’s self, reflection and strength to question our place and space in our determined environment. It means growth, beauty and the sharing of those expressions to unite humanity to our collective values and core experiences of the human condition. Art is everything, giving value to what we are aware of as individuals.

What are you craving right now?
I am craving a home where cultures from a multitude of colonial oppression can come together to share experiences and voice stories, hopes, and dreams without identity politics conflicting spaces for shared expression. We can learn and change collectively, if we can allow spaces to be undefined.