It was more than 30 years ago that Peterborough hosted one of the largest and most vibrant international Indigenous theatre celebrations the city has ever seen, but Patti Shaughnessy still remembers the vivid impact it had on her.
“This was a remarkable festival. It was a collective gathering of Indigenous artists from all over the world, including Japan, Africa, the U.S. and Canada.”
Now in her fifth year as director of the Ode’min Giizis Indigenous Arts Festival, Shaughnessy says the annual community gathering she organizes pays tribute to the history, spirit and ingenuity of the artists and performers who have gone before her.
“Some people want to honour the War of 1812. We want to celebrate and fan the flames of an artistic tradition that’s existed for thousands of years, while being an integral part of its continuum.”
Taking place June 20-24, Ode’min Giizis is presented by the O’Kaadenigan Wiingashk (OKW) and Public Energy. The festival will see the coming together of over 100 regional and international Indigenous artists, musicians, performers, visual artists, writers, storytellers, artisans, and dancers, for the event.
“The Festival continues to grow and evolve,” says Shaughnessy. “But our vision to expand imaginations, foster and encourage artists while pushing boundaries, remains true.”
Ode’min Giizis kicks off at the Art Gallery of Peterborough on Wednesday, June 20 at 5:30 p.m. featuring jiigbiing: at the edge where the water and the earth meet. It is curated by William Kingfisher and Gaabinjigabaa’aang.
One of the many festival highlights is Tomson Highway’s return to Market Hall Performing Arts Centre with his newest musical directed by Ruth Madoc-Jones and starring Patricia Cano. The (Post) Mistress will be performed from June 21 to 24. Cliff Cardinal premieres his new one-man show Huff at the Gordon Best Theatre. The performance is filled with dark humour and vivid imagery, according to Shaughnessy.
Music also rocks the Festival. Firing up the Garnet Stage are local luminaries Tara Williamson with her special guests on June 21 and on June 22, Sarah DeCarlo performs her mash up of music styles on the heels of her debut CD release and her cross Canada tour.
On Saturday, June 23 the Festival hosts a Community Street Fair, a family event that begins at noon on Hunter Street with vendors, children’s art activities and storytelling with Douglas Williams and Leanne Simpson at Fleming Park. Live performances will be performed on the street featuring Sean Conway, Cris Derksen and Joy Mullen, The Imbayakunas and Grupo Granma from Santiago de Cuba. The party continues at the Gordon Best Theatre with the award-winning Indigenous Ottawa-based DJs, A Tribe Called Red.
Ode’min Giizis is the sixth moon of the Anishinaabe calendar. It marks the beginning of summer, the longest day of the year, and the harvest of the strawberry which resembles the shape and colour of the human heart representing the sweetest and kindest of emotions that bring people together to feast and exchange ideas.
“These traditions and celebrations didn’t start with us, and they won’t end with us,” Shaughnessy says. “Our partnerships with the community have grown stronger every year and I’m excited for even more people to come out and experience the richness of the exciting community event.”
Check out festival activities and updates at the Festival website at okw-arts.ca or call 705-745-1788. Free Festival guides are available at retail outlets in downtown Peterborough. Tickets are on sale at the Market Hall box office on line at markethall.org or by calling 705-749-1146.