Ioskeha et Tawiscara: The Great Game of Creation performance| Image source: Presence Autochtone Facebook
MONTREAL—At a press conference at the Grande Bibliothèque, Artistic Director André Dudemaine, unveiled the programming for the 28th festival edition. “The First People’s Festival is the quiet and unstoppable force behind emerging voices that will never be confined to silence again – let it be said! After being put away into ancient archives too soon, Indigenous cultures are now being reformulated in hybrid forms with contributions from various spheres, and are making dazzling artistic advances’.
Beginning on Thursday, July 26th like every year, The First People’s Festival starts its activities at The Guild with the opening of the exhibition devoted to Sonny Assu (Liǥwilda‘xw from the Kwakwaka‘wakw Nations) hailing from British Columbia. On their end, the Ashukan Cultural Space, in partnership with the Festival, also presents an exhibition starting on August 8th about Nico Williams, an Anishinaabe artist who creates contemporary geometric sculptures with beadwork.
The Festival‘s inaugural evening will be held on Tuesday, August 7th at 7p.m., in the auditorium at the Grande Bibliothèque, with the screening of short films as a scoop, through which the audience will discover the best of emerging Aboriginal filmmaking, in a 5 –minute anthology: ‘Rae’ by Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs – Canada 2017; ‘Shaman‘ by Echo Henoche; Kirano (Ourselves) by the Comité Empreintes – Canada 2017; ‘Never Stop Riding‘ by Peter Mungkuri, Alec Baker, Jimmy Pompey – Australia 2017; Survivre au temps by Eden Mallina Awashish – Canada 2017; ‘Mud‘ by Shaandiin Tome – United States 2018; ‘Thunderbird Strike‘ by Elizabeth LaPensee – United States 2017; and ‘Troubles’ by Erik Papatie– Canada 2017.
The film programming presented at Concordia University will offer feature-length documentary films, and fiction that are milestones in the life and issues of First Nations. Some characters are colorful and show unique life itineraries: Mohawk Dirt Mccomber in the eponym film by Ryan White and Joanne Storkan (Dirt McComber, Last of Mohicans USA 2018) or the young Lakota of On a Knife Edge by Jeremy Williams (USA 2017). Also note: When They Awake by P.J Marcellino and Hermon Farahi (Canada 2017), Sweet Country by Warwick Thornton (Australia 2017), Nada queda sino nuestra ternura by Sébastien Jallade (Peru 2017), Wiñaypacha by Oscar Catacora (Peru 2017), Ukamau y ké Andrés Ramírez (Ecuador 2017), Joey and the Leitis by Hina Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson (Tonga 2018), Ara Pyau – The Guarani Spring by Carlos Eduardo Magalhães (Brazil 2018), The Selva Negra of Saul Kak and Charles Fairbanks (Mexico – United States 2016) or Ex–Pajé (Ex-Shaman) of Luiz Bolognesi (Brazil 2018).
Major events await the public on the Place des Festivals, where The First People’s Festival begins its outdoor activities on August 8th with the Don Amero concert at 8:30 p.m., on the Quebecor stage. This will be followed by the screening of the film ‘When They Awake’ at 9:15 p.m. This documentary presents a generation of Aboriginal musicians engaged in cultural and political resurgence.
On Thursday, August 9th, at 8:30 p.m., a concert by The Jerry Cans with music inspired by their hometown, Iqaluit (Nunavut), located in the Canadian Arctic. With a unique blend of Inuit traditional songs and Inuktitut rock, The Jerry Cans brings a distinct Nordic sound. The opening act will be by Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards winner, singer–songwriter Beatrice Deer, from Nunavik.
On the Place du Makusham (aka Place des Festivals), a theatrical performance: Ioskeha and Tawiscara:The Great Game of Creation will unfold Friday, August 10th and Sunday, August 12th at 8:30 p.m. This is an interactive theatre act, a dive into the cosmovision of Indigenous people from here, with the Northern Voice’s drums from Wemotaci. It is an act of ritual and processional theatre in which two great heroes, the Enemy Twins from the stories in the Indigenous tradition, twin enemies who preside in their titanic clash at the creation of the world, reappear in the heart of Montreal. The choreographer and stage director Pierre–Paul Savoie and the puppeteer Jocelyn Sioui direct this production whose scenography and staging are renewed in 2018.
On Saturday, August 11th at 9 p.m., still on the Quebecor stage, Nikamotan Mtl concert, second edition of the Nomadic Music show, in collaboration with the First People’s Festival. This year, the show takes on Hip–Hop, Electro sounds and styles, with the cream of the crop of Indigenous and Indie music. On stage there will be: Iskwe, Chances group, Anachnid, Annie Sama, Wolf Castle, Violent Ground and Sacred Wolf Singers.
Dedicated to hospitality and friendship, a true celebration of contemporary Montreal with more than 1,200 artists from diverse cultural communities is back for the seventh year: the NuestroAmericana Parade of Friendship with Montreal and the First Nations, is held under the emblematic figure of Atahensic, the woman who has fallen from the sky; the grandmother of humanity.
From August 8th to 12th, the Place des Festivals is transfigured by a Studio 703 scenography, imbued with the First People’s cosmovision, inspired by contemporary Aboriginal artists who translate in their own way the territory’s rich spiritual and artistic heritage. A visual and luminous decor has been specially designed for The First People’s Festival, including a multimedia creation by Caroline Monnet and Sébastien Aubin of the AM Collective.
The large central tipi evokes the vertical axis that unites the sky, the earth and the underwater world. At the top, a flock of geese is reminiscent of the birds that brought Atahensic, the sky woman, to the first day of the world. At ground level the turtle represents the marine world and its shell, the earth crust it carries on its back.
The Longhouse is a traditional Iroquois architecture, so it is very typical of Montreal. Tipis are a form of textile architecture that evokes the meadows and taiga. The deer in the fountains refer to the animal world and the nourishing forest; the streams of water represent the soul that gives life to creation.
A food kiosk will allow festival–goers to enjoy first–class cuisine inspired by First Nations traditions at a competitive price. Craftsmen will be on site to offer their handmade products.
These types of interactive activities in the public space, elaborate a liturgy for the present times, through the parade, the scenography of the Makusham Square and the ritual theatre, thus connecting the city with its deepest identity. This identity is now reappearing in new forms, thanks to the collaboration of artists of all origins who share in the sources and renewal of Aboriginal culture. The festivities thus touch on our strong collective wish to live.
The 28th First People’s Festival will close on August 15th at 7 p.m. at the Grande Bibliothèque, with the screening of The Circle of Nations 2: Women. This collective feature film by RICAA focuses on the theme of women from here and elsewhere and proposes contemporary perspectives on the issues of identity, territory and femininity brought by Aboriginal filmmakers from Canada, Bolivia and Chile, Panama and Peru. It is a Wapikoni Mobile and RICAA production, in collaboration with OXFAM-Quebec, McGill University, Escuela de Cine and Comunicación Mapuce del Ayja Rewe Budi, CIASE.
Also note that well–known Aboriginal film personalities will be in town to give the APTN Master Classes at the Ashukan Cultural Space. Daniel Brière: producing an Aboriginal film with special effects (Tuesday, August 14 at 10am), Kim O’bomsawin: on the production and scripting of documentary films (Tuesday, August 14 at 14:30), Brittany LeBorgne: on acting in television and cinema (Wednesday, August 15 at 10am) and Wahiakeron Gilbert: on Indigenous actors and languages in cinema (Wednesday, August 15 at 14:30). An academic conference, Indigenous perspectives on the Americas, and a roundtable, Indigenous women: which cinema? will also be in the programming.
The First People’s Festival faithfully mirrors the current realities of Indigenous art. It is a space where we can plunge into this multidisciplinary and polymorphous effervescence where everyone is welcome.