Indigenous Knowledge, Contemporary Performance
"Indigenous Knowledge, Contemporary Performance" is a major research/creation project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada involving artist/scholars Candace Brunette (Omushkego Cree), Jill Carter (Anishinaabe), Brenda Farnell, Michael Greyeyes (Plains Cree), LeAnne Howe (Choctaw), Ric Knowles, and Monique Mojica (Kuna and Rappahannock)" and others, known as “Native Performance Culture Research,” dedicated to investigating the analysis and use of the “DNA” of Indigenous cultural forms in the creation of contemporary Native theatre and performance.
Indigenous Knowledge, Contemporary Performance advances this work on three fronts: 1) embodied performance research on the recovery of Indigenous knowledge through exercises governed by nation-specific aesthetic principles, and the development from these principles of performance methodologies for contemporary Native artists; 2) the generation and development of contemporary Indigenous dramaturgical processes and structures grounded in Indigenous cultural forms; and 3) the annotation of Indigenous non-text-based performance drawing on Indigenous forms of annotation such as pictographs and winter counts. Each of these related initiatives will centre around three “test-case” performances: a) Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way (year one), a project already under development by Kuna-Rappahannock Monique Mojica (of the second generation of Spiderwoman Theater and a leader in Native Performance Culture Research) and an international creation team that builds its dramaturgical models on Kuna cosmologies as embedded in the mola textile arts and pictographs of the Indigenous people of Kuna Yala on coastal Panama; b) Omushkego Cree Water Stories (year two), initiated by Omushkego Cree-Métis artists Erika Iserhoff and Candace Brunette that builds on the story-telling forms of the James Bay Cree; and Sideshow Freaks and Circus Injuns (year three), headed by Mojica and Choctaw LeAnne Howe, which will research their family members’ histories as “Show Indians” from 1919 to 1950 in order to create a theatrical performance whose intent is to dislodge the colonizer’s gaze from the Indigenous body and in doing so, to reverse that gaze.
The Indigenous Knowledge. Contemporary Performance research team: Brenda Farnell, Jill Carter (Anishinaabe), LeAnne Howe (Choctaw), Erika Iserhoff (Omushkego Cree), Ric Knowles, and Monique Mojica (Kuna and Rappahannock). Missing from the photo: Candace Brunette (Omushkego Cree) and Michael Greyeyes (Plains Cree)
The objectives of this research are to recover Indigenous epistemologies embodied in cultural forms and practices, to apply these epistemological principles to the cultivation of contemporary performance forms, and to develop ways of annotating, recording, preserving, and “scripting” Indigenous performance that move beyond western and logocentric textualities and ground themselves in Indigenous methods of annotation and memory. The intention is to model a methodology that is adaptable to specific Indigenous communities and cultures and applicable to the creation of Indigenous performance anywhere. The project’s potential contribution to knowledge is immense because of its capacity to revitalize Native performance, which has long been fixated on “the victim narrative,” by turning for structural principles to Indigenous forms that remain unbroken after 400 years of colonization.
Monique Mojica in rehearsal for *Chocolate Woman Dreams the Milky Way