The world’s largest multidisciplinary, contemporary international indigenous arts festival is coming to Brantford.
Artists, musicians and performers from as far away as Mongolia, New Zealand, Australia, China and Japan and as close as Six Nations and Brantford will come together for Planet IndigenUS to showcase their contemporary works and share mutual experiences.
“When you hear the word ‘aboriginal’ or ‘indigenous’ festival, it tends to have this connotation that it’s very traditional or like a powwow,” said Planet IndigenUS co-artistic director Janis Monture of the Woodland Cultural Centre. “But we wanted to show that we have this very vibrant and contemporary arts community involving all indigenous people.”
Running as part of a partnership between the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford and Harboufront Centre in Toronto, the festival will feature visual arts, music, family events, food, comedy, sport, theatre, film, dance and more.
“It’s a big celebration,” Monture said. “There’s a lot of people from around the world doing incredible indigenous art and we wanted to showcase that.”
Events are scheduled from Friday, Aug. 10, to Sunday, Aug. 19, at Woodland and Harbourfront, as well as several other locations throughout Ontario.
Events at Woodland kick off on Saturday, Aug. 11, with an opening reception for four exhibits featuring Six Nations artists: Earthly Connections, Greg Staats – A Retrospective, Four from Six and Encircles Everything.
Entertainment will be featured throughout the afternoon and evening, with performances by The Breaking Wind, Goombine, Six Nations Women Singers and Mongolian folk-punk ensemble Hanggai.
A family fun tent will feature arts and craft activities for children, artists from Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation will showcase their work and Aboriginal Culinary Concepts will offer a First Nations food fusion demo.
The godfathers of First Nations comedy, Charlie Hill and Don Burnstick, round out the evening with the Heck Init Comedy Night.
Bring your lawn chair and blankets to the Woodland lawn on Sunday, Aug. 12, for a screening of New Zealand indigenous films Boy and Whale Rider.
On Wednesday, Aug. 15, watch a production of Six Nations playwright Falen Johnson’s Salt Baby.
Lisa Odjig, a two-time world champion hoop dancer and recent semifinalist on Canada’s Got Talent, will conduct an Intro to Hoop workshop on Thursday, Aug. 16.
Three-time Juno-winner Susan Aglukark and Aboriginal Peoples Choice music award-winner Ali Fontaine will perform during Trailblazers and Music Makers on Friday, Aug. 17.
Planet IndigenUS began in 2004 as a partnership between Woodland and Harbourfront.
“(Event artistic producer) Melanie Fernandez noticed being in Toronto that there was no opportunity for indigenous art in mainstream institutions,” Monture said. “People still today think of indigenous art as powwows and crafts, but we have people who do culinary arts, comedy, music, dance, fine arts. We wanted to show that there is more to our art.”
For Six Nations artist Greg Staats, whose retrospective exhibit will run during the festival, being part of Planet IndigenUS is a way to broaden the scope of his viewers.
“If they have a preconceived idea of First Nations art, then they will say ‘this is different, where is this coming from?’” Staats said. “It’s a chance for the viewer to experience a broader array of viewpoints and life experiences from the works.”
Incorporating artists from around the world is a way to make connections and show that indigenous people share issues, stories and experiences no matter what the physical boundaries.
“Everyone comes from somewhere, but there is always something intrinsic in all of us,” Monture said.
All events at Woodland Cultural Centre are free, except the Heck Init Comedy Night and Trailblazers and Music Makers events.
Tickets cost $10 per person in advance or $15 at the door for each show. Tickets can be purchased at the Woodland Cultural Centre.
Visit www.harbourfrontcentre.com/planetindigenus for a full list of Planet IndigenUS events.