bodies, words, actions

Karolina Bialkowska and Tomas Jonsson

indigenous theatre

Taught by Troy Emery Twigg, recently appointed the Artistic Director of Making Treaty 7, The first Indigenous theatre course at UBCO was a 6-week intensive that asked students to engage with Indigenous performance art praxis.

The resulting four group collaborations were performed during an open event where artists, scholars, thinkers, organizers, and fellow students were invited to witness their work. These performances gave presence to what indigenous praxis in theatre can look like – the narratives told through bodies, words, actions. The four presentations were rich and varied, comprised of a diverse range of approaches from personal, abstract, and political commentary. The performances were as wide-ranging as the emotions that they called into being from those who watched them.

Group one asked that we consider stories: his story, her story, my story, our story. Each performer imparting stories of trajectories, tracing lineages, embodying pasts, presents, and futures. The individual bodies coalesced around the story told. A physically intensive collective movement that embodied the stories of its members.

Group two conveyed the ways in which indigenous bodies are manipulated, violently refigured in the cultural and social imaginary, defaced, and used. The performance reimagined the possibilities of exerting agency, at the end agency was enacted through a symbolic gesture – a mooning of the audience, and a collective ass slapping.

The third group of students articulated (through visual and verbal means) the hysterical and distorted reaction to an unrelenting news flow, numbing and eventually muting its audience. Using the screen to create imaginary headlines, a performed news author typed and erased serious headlines such as “Trudeau to lessen tax on students” and “Global warming is over” before settling on “Kim Kardashian breaks the Internet again with photos of her butt.” The muzzling of the masses was enacted through a collective ball-gagging, resulting in the silencing of the voices of the characters onstage.

The final performance depicted a near-parodic retelling of the Gustafson Lake Standoff. In broad strokes, this performance highlight the absurdity of the military reaction in response to the land conflict, the hypocrisy of the government and justice system, and the potential for solidarity in resistance.

It was an honour and a pleasure to witness these works, some by first time performers.  We would like to extend a deep warmth and gratitude to Troy Emery Twigg for sharing his knowledge, heart, and practice with this group, and with us.

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