Top News

Spirit Song Festival fuses indigenous and non-indigenous local music, art


There are good reasons why art has long been used as a medium for social change. Besides giving those who may not otherwise have a voice a way to express themselves, it can challenge myths and assumptions, and inspire others to take action.

Sometimes, words are not enough to spark the same personal, visceral and deep reaction art can.

With this in mind, the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre is holding its annual Spirit Song festival this weekend, under a specific and important theme: reconciliation through collaboration.

RELATED LINKS:

Spirits unite

The beat of their own drum

With a goal to put into action the recommendations in the final report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission — which documented the injustices and harm experienced by survivors of Indian residential schools and promoted public awareness of the system and its impacts as part of its mandate — the centre is bringing together indigenous and non-indigenous artists and performers for the festival.

Wonderbolt Circus has been paired with Eastern Eagle, a seven-piece big drum group.

Ceramics artists Erin Callahan St. John of St. John’s and Kayla Stride, a native of Conne River, have been paired, as have poets Shannon Webb-Campbell and Kate Lahey.

Eastern Owl, a seven-member, all-female musical group fusing traditional First Nations music with contemporary folk, will perform two songs with popular Celtic band The Navigators: “Indian Act,” an original song by Eastern Owl, and what Eastern Owl member Jenelle Duval says will be a surprise Navigators tune that’s a tribute to Labrador.

“We just got together with them and started jamming and we had the two pieces down in no time,” Duval says. “We’re super excited about this collaboration.”

Spirit Song began as a one-night variety show in 2013, showcasing performers from each of the province’s aboriginal communities — Inuit, Mi’kmaq, Métis and Innu — with the goal of raising funds for the Native Friendship Centre as well as promoting local indigenous cultures.

Last year, the event turned into a two-day festival, with a concert on the first day and a series of arts workshops on the second.

Applying the reconciliation through collaboration theme this year was an easy decision, says Danielle Sullivan, the centre’s communication officer and one of the festival organizers.

“As an organization, we’re well known with our membership and we have a large urban population here, so when we started talking about Spirit Song and how we could grow the festival and how it could be something more, obviously truth and reconciliation came to mind,” Sullivan explains.

“We always have these discussions about what we can do as an organization to further those efforts, and what better than bringing two communities together that have historically been at odds to create something new in the spirit of togetherness? We might have different histories in some respects, but it’s all part of Newfoundland and Labrador history. Whether you’re indigenous or non-indigenous, we all share in that.”

Spirit Song will take place over two days. Friday night will see the gala portion of the festival happening at the Johnson Geo Centre in St. John’s at 7:30 p.m.

A fundraiser for the Native Friendship Centre, it will be a reception-style event featuring the collaborative performances, a silent auction and “meet the artist” booths.

Hors d’oeuvres will be served by a new catering social enterprise venture by the centre, which will focus on traditional foods native to Newfoundland and Labrador with a contemporary twist. On the menu for the gala: smoked char with fromage à la crème and French macaroons with a partridgeberry cream centre.

On Saturday from 1-4 p.m. at Memorial University’s Bruneau Innovation Centre, there will be a family-friendly “urban Mawiomi” (Mawiomi is a Mi’qmak word for “gathering”), with performances by indigenous and non-indigenous artists such as Eastern Eagle and The Swinging Belles, crafts and other activities for kids, art displays, food and a craft sale.

“There will also be a community art installation. People will be able to paint a big wooden teepee. What we’re asking is that people contribute what they think reconciliation means or looks like to them,” Sullivan says.

The Mawiomi is free; tickets for the gala are available online by visiting www.sjnfc.com/spiritsong . Money raised during Spirit Song will go towards arts programming at the Native Friendship Centre.

tbradbury@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Sometimes, words are not enough to spark the same personal, visceral and deep reaction art can.

With this in mind, the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre is holding its annual Spirit Song festival this weekend, under a specific and important theme: reconciliation through collaboration.

RELATED LINKS:

Spirits unite

The beat of their own drum

With a goal to put into action the recommendations in the final report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission — which documented the injustices and harm experienced by survivors of Indian residential schools and promoted public awareness of the system and its impacts as part of its mandate — the centre is bringing together indigenous and non-indigenous artists and performers for the festival.

Wonderbolt Circus has been paired with Eastern Eagle, a seven-piece big drum group.

Ceramics artists Erin Callahan St. John of St. John’s and Kayla Stride, a native of Conne River, have been paired, as have poets Shannon Webb-Campbell and Kate Lahey.

Eastern Owl, a seven-member, all-female musical group fusing traditional First Nations music with contemporary folk, will perform two songs with popular Celtic band The Navigators: “Indian Act,” an original song by Eastern Owl, and what Eastern Owl member Jenelle Duval says will be a surprise Navigators tune that’s a tribute to Labrador.

“We just got together with them and started jamming and we had the two pieces down in no time,” Duval says. “We’re super excited about this collaboration.”

Spirit Song began as a one-night variety show in 2013, showcasing performers from each of the province’s aboriginal communities — Inuit, Mi’kmaq, Métis and Innu — with the goal of raising funds for the Native Friendship Centre as well as promoting local indigenous cultures.

Last year, the event turned into a two-day festival, with a concert on the first day and a series of arts workshops on the second.

Applying the reconciliation through collaboration theme this year was an easy decision, says Danielle Sullivan, the centre’s communication officer and one of the festival organizers.

“As an organization, we’re well known with our membership and we have a large urban population here, so when we started talking about Spirit Song and how we could grow the festival and how it could be something more, obviously truth and reconciliation came to mind,” Sullivan explains.

“We always have these discussions about what we can do as an organization to further those efforts, and what better than bringing two communities together that have historically been at odds to create something new in the spirit of togetherness? We might have different histories in some respects, but it’s all part of Newfoundland and Labrador history. Whether you’re indigenous or non-indigenous, we all share in that.”

Spirit Song will take place over two days. Friday night will see the gala portion of the festival happening at the Johnson Geo Centre in St. John’s at 7:30 p.m.

A fundraiser for the Native Friendship Centre, it will be a reception-style event featuring the collaborative performances, a silent auction and “meet the artist” booths.

Hors d’oeuvres will be served by a new catering social enterprise venture by the centre, which will focus on traditional foods native to Newfoundland and Labrador with a contemporary twist. On the menu for the gala: smoked char with fromage à la crème and French macaroons with a partridgeberry cream centre.

On Saturday from 1-4 p.m. at Memorial University’s Bruneau Innovation Centre, there will be a family-friendly “urban Mawiomi” (Mawiomi is a Mi’qmak word for “gathering”), with performances by indigenous and non-indigenous artists such as Eastern Eagle and The Swinging Belles, crafts and other activities for kids, art displays, food and a craft sale.

“There will also be a community art installation. People will be able to paint a big wooden teepee. What we’re asking is that people contribute what they think reconciliation means or looks like to them,” Sullivan says.

The Mawiomi is free; tickets for the gala are available online by visiting www.sjnfc.com/spiritsong . Money raised during Spirit Song will go towards arts programming at the Native Friendship Centre.

tbradbury@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Recent Stories