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St. John's artists combine Canadian and Brazilian experiences to create 'Ori'

Performance artist Corie Harnett rehearses for “Ori,” her collaborative show with textile artist Bruno Vinhas, running this week at the Barbara Barrett Theatre in St. John’s.
Performance artist Corie Harnett rehearses for “Ori,” her collaborative show with textile artist Bruno Vinhas, running this week at the Barbara Barrett Theatre in St. John’s. - Contributed

Fusing dance with textile art

She is an accomplished dance and theatre artist, with a speciality in Afro/Latin choreography.

He is a Brazilian-born textile artist, known for his intricate embroidery and often anthropological themes.

Together, Corie Harnett and Bruno Vinhas and created "Ori," a cross-cultural show fusing performance with textile art, at the Barbara Barrett Theatre in St. John's. Vinhas has created an installation piece within which Harnett will present an autobiographical performance, a story of finding out who you are and where you fit ... while dancing with goddesses along the way.

In particular, four goddesses of Candomble.

"Candomble, which means 'dance in honour of the gods,' is a religion found primarliy in Brazil," Vinhas explains. "You would have similarities with Cuban Santeria and North American voodoo, but they are not the same whatsoever. They have a number of elements derived from African cultures. Brazil's African ancestors, the Yoruba from Nigeria and Benin, lived by a belief system that held nature as their high power. ... In Brazil, this system developed into the spiritual practice of Candomble, whereby deities are recognized as divine forces of nature.”

The four goddesses Vinhas and Harnett have chosen to represent in their show include those known as rulers of rivers and waterfalls; lightning, fire and storms; feminine power; and the ocean.

The two artists decided on those goddesses because of their relationship with the people in Harnett's life story, which she is presenting onstage.

Textile artist Bruno Vinhas, who is known for his intricate embroidery, has produced significant work for “Ori,” his collaborative performance piece with dancer Corie Harnett.
Textile artist Bruno Vinhas, who is known for his intricate embroidery, has produced significant work for “Ori,” his collaborative performance piece with dancer Corie Harnett.

Vinhas said the creative process behind "Ori" was intense — which is not surprising, given they were crossing cultural boundaries to delve into subjects to which they were each personally attached.

Harnett was willing to learn and understand the details of Candomble (and the artists' research involved speaking with three Brazilians who practice the religion), and Vinhas was eager to hear more about Harnett's personal journey and how she wanted to portray it onstage.

The end result is a piece that uses not only textiles, but light and sound to fill Harnett's performance space.

The text was written by Harnett, and dramaturged by local theatre director Shaon King-Campbell.

"It's exquisite," Vinhas says of the script. "It brings you on a personal journey through unbelonging, life, death, loss, finding yourself and your place you can call home."

Vinhas and Harnett opened "Ori" in St. John's Thursday night, and will present it again tonight. They say they'd love to come away from the show with a tour on their hands, and have the dream of bringing "Ori" to Ontario, where Harnett grew up, and perhaps someday to Brazil.

They hope audiences leave the theatre with an appreciation for collaborative art that can cross media and culture without taking them for granted.

"Ori" is intended for audiences aged 16 and older, and runs for one hour. Tickets are available at the St. John's Arts and Culture Centre box office and online at www.artsandculturecentre.com.

tara_bradbury@thetelegram.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

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