Jessica Lea Fleming: Where does my privilege intersect with my Indigenous identity?

We are delighted to have award-winning Métis filmmaker, published poet, producer and former Native Earth Artistic Associate Jessica Lea Fleming return with her latest spoken word-theatrical piece The Properties of Spirit.

“[Since participating in Animikiig Creators Unit five years ago] I’ve set aside the play I was working on. I needed to step away and examine my Indigenous identity and personal history in order to create responsibly. I also continue to ask myself why my perspective as a Métis artist is important right now.”

The Properties of Spirit interweaves autobiographical experiences with Métis identity and the Divine Feminine. Combining spoken word poetry and storytelling, the piece is punctuated with soundscapes inspired by the land, water, and traditional Métis practices.

“It was an accident. After confiding in one of my best friends and a fellow poet that I had completely abandoned my writing practice, she promptly pushed me by sending me daily writing prompts. What emerged was a collection of writing marked by healing and rebirth.”

The Properties of Spirit grew out of Fleming’s deeper curiosity for her family’s complex history. “What does it mean to be both a settler and an Indigenous person? Where does my privilege intersect with my Indigenous identity?” With dramaturgical support by multiple award-winning artist Donna-Michelle St. Bernard and integration of soundscapes, Fleming hopes “the audience feels trusted” after seeing her piece.

“Weesageechak is a festival near and dear to my heart. The gathering of community and sharing of works in their most vulnerable stages is empowering. My piece is far from done, so having the opportunity to try things out (and fail) publicly is liberating. That’s what draws me to the festival and helps me thrive as an artist: the support of the process, not the product.”

Don’t miss Jessica Lea Fleming’s The Properties of Spirit on Wednesday November 21st.

More about Jessica Lea Fleming

What piece are you looking forward to seeing at W31?
I always look forward to the Animikiig night! I’ve also seen snippets of Canoe and Making Treaty 7 at different stages of their development over the last few years, and both are really exciting to me.

Who is your Indigenous role model? How do they inspire you?
I learned a lot from my Mom and her late father, my Poppa. They taught me to be resourceful and tenacious, but to always keep a good sense of humour about life’s twists and turns.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
When it comes to professional opportunities, don’t say “yes” because you’re flattered and don’t say “no” because you’re afraid.

Do you have any advice for young Indigenous creators just coming onto the scene?
Two things. One, I wish somebody had told me “Don’t wait to be perfect to start.” Just make your work, and know that you’ll keep getting better and better.

And two, it’s okay to change your mind and your opinions as you grow up. You don’t owe anyone a stagnant version of yourself. Sometimes other people want to keep us in a box because THEY are uncomfortable with change. Evolve on your own terms.

What are your thoughts on addressing political topics through Indigenous art?
All Indigenous art is political. Our very existence, the survival of our cultures, practices and genetics, is an unwavering statement that we won’t be erased or silenced. Indigenous people are beautiful, powerful and permanent. Each time we make work, we affirm that for ourselves and the next generation.

What does art mean to you?
Art is the freedom to question politics, relationships, “truth” and the self, an express those discoveries in a uniquely personal way.

What are you craving right now?
As a new mama to a gorgeous baby boy, I am unequivocally craving sleep, sleep and more sleep!

What is coming up next for you?
For screen, I’m currently in post-production for an episode of the new AMPLIFY series I directed for APTN, and gearing up to direct a music video for Iskwé in a few months. For stage, I’m working with some fabulous womxn on a collaborative new piece See the Circus, and co-directing another piece in development with Signal Theatre. I also have a few more performance opportunities for The Properties of Spirit.