Toronto Indigenous-led arts collective experienced anti-Indigenous racism, lack of accountability and neglect over a year and a half working with Luminato Festival.
Um of Water is an Indigenous artist collective who came together with a UK collaborator to present a series of live and online events, artworks and conversations centring Water, which became a thematic foundation of Luminato 2022. The programming was canceled in full, three days before its scheduled launch, coinciding with National Indigenous History Month. Across the year leading up to the opening, members of the collective repeatedly expressed concerns about gaps in Luminato’s production and executive processes as well as inadequate fiscal transparency and administrative accountability. This neglect resulted in continuous and ongoing erasure of key creative concepts and curatorial autonomy including Indigenous protocols, sensibilities and ways of relating.
Specific examples of the festival’s actions include delayed payments to artists, absence of contracts, lack of acknowledgement of the collective’s curatorial contributions to other aspects of the festival as well as deficient support from Luminato’s production, marketing teams and supporting departments. Across two festivals, not once did the Festival’s leadership engage with the Indigenous collective’s governance suggestions around reciprocity and safety in a rigorous or serious way.
Although Luminato issued an apology on their website, the words offer little solace after 16 months of preparation and commitment by the collective and the artists, Elders and community members who had contributed to the programming.
Luminato’s actions are a replication of deeply pervasive, but not surprising, assertions of white supremacy, hypocrisy and lack of care within the organization’s culture. This is not an isolated occurrence at Luminato, this is part of a repeating pattern of harmful behaviours against Indigenous communities. These routinely extractive habits result in the accumulation of toxicity in bodies and shared spaces.
This statement is offered to highlight Luminato’s business-as-usual relationships with Indigenous peoples and predictive behaviours that will not be easily resolved by short-term promises or demands.