...the first Arts Council in Ontario

Native Women in the Arts

Spring E-Nounce

Spring 2007 is here and Native Women in the Arts (NWIA) has much to celebrate! This past year has truly been a testimony to the outstanding achievements of Indigenous peoples in Canada and beyond. This year we have presented an exceptional Catalyst Cafés Series, music concerts, dance presentations, speaking engagements, and an outstanding line-up of Indigenous artists and leaders including: Tania Willard, Waneek Horn-Miller, Tanya Tagaq, Leela Gilday, Lucie Idlout, Nukariik Throat Singers, Natalia Toledo, Michael Greyeyes, Derek Miller, Tamara Podemski, Nathan Cheechoo, Dr. Dawn Martin-Hill, and Joni Shawana.

Our Catalyst Cafés Series stimulate creative and intellectual courage, and the appreciation of Indigenous art and culture. Our first cafe was held In April 2006 and exhibited the work and performance of Tania Willard. Dancing on the Water, held at A Space Gallery, is a body of work inspired by the history of Aboriginal longshoring in BC. Her exhibition and artist presentation illustrated the stories, personal histories and experiences of Aboriginal people on the waterfront. Her work is grounded in her experience as a Secwepemc woman and urban Native, and stems from her passion for Aboriginal rights, illustrating a picture of an unspoken history of Aboriginal working people.

In February 2007, NWIA held a Catalyst Café featuring Michael Greyeyes who spoke openly to a captivated audience about his Indigenous Life in Dance, Film and
Theatre. Topics included the image of Native peoples in Hollywood and the advancement of Indigenous performance art in Canada. Michael spoke candidly about his career and experiences, generously responding to all of our audience's questions.

Co-produced by the Women's Art Resource Centre in March 2007, NWIA presented Flower of the Zapotec Word with poet Natalia Toldeo of the Zapotec nation from the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Natalia is the first woman to be awarded the National Prize for Indigenous literature and her writing has received international acclaim.

One of our most moving Catalyst Cafés explored the story of one woman's journey From Oka to the Olympics. Waneek Horn-Miller shared with our audience her experiences during the final hours of the 1990 Oka Crisis. Surviving this trauma greatly inspired Waneek to work towards her athletic dreams, becoming Co-Captain of the Canadian Women's Water Polo Team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. This café included a full screening of the documentary Chiefs and Champions (hosted by Tom Jackson, created and produced by Annie Frazier Henry, and produced by Big Red Barn Entertainment and Full Regalia Productions) that told Waneek's astonishing story.

NWIA produced an exciting Up Close & Personal music concert with Lucie Idlout & Tamara Podemski held at Little Italy's Bar Italia in March, 2007. These two award-winning artists performed for a packed capacity house. The evening opened with the smooth sound of Tamara Podemski, and Lucie Idlout amazed the audience with her fierce performance. Our special guest was 20-year-old Nathan Cheechoo, an exciting new voice on the Aboriginal music scene from the Moose Cree First Nation. All three artists gave a stellar performance filled with the utmost passion.

In March 2007, NWIA's Artistic Producer Sandra Laronde was a guest speaker at Brock University's second Annual Aboriginal Women's Day that celebrates positive Aboriginal women in today's society, leadership, social justice and artistic expression. She was also a guest lecturer at University of Toronto's Philosophy of Feminism class, speaking on Aboriginal women and contemporary artistic expression, and has been seen at various events in the community at large

In April, our Catalyst Café featured Juno-award-winner Derek Miller. Throughout this intimate performance, Derek took time to reflect and share with our audience some of his inspirations, experiences on the road - the good and the bad - and why Music is the Medicine. This capacity house café at Toronto's NOW Lounge was sponsored by NOW Magazine.

One of the highlights of our 2006/2007 season was NWIA's Songs from Above the Treeline concert series. These two concerts introduced the rarely heard sounds, sights and talents of Inuit and Dene women artists who are from the north: above the treeline. These top artists represent traditional, electronic, rock, folk and contemporary musical genres all influenced by their distinct northern cultures. Included in this innovative line-up was three-time Aboriginal Music Award winner, Tanya Tagaq, Aboriginal Music Award Winner Lucie Idlout, Nukariik Inuit Throat Singers, and Juno and Aboriginal Music Award winner Leela Gilday. These concerts were part of an exciting city-wide initiative, Live With Culture. Live With Culture is a celebration of Toronto's extraordinary arts and cultural communities, shining a spotlight on the vibrant and diverse activities happening in the city each and every day.

In June 2007, rehearsals will commence for Ten Thousand Waves, a dance project for ten Aboriginal women with a focus on Aboriginal women's relationship to the natural world and especially to water - seas, oceans, rivers, fresh lakes, waterfalls and streams. Led by renowned choreographer Denise Fujiwara, Ten Thousand Waves is interested in exploring this centuries old connection to water by linking contemporary Aboriginal dance expression to ecological knowledge and integrity.

When she is not hosting one of NWIA's concerts or Catalyst Cafés, Associate Producer Melissa Chetty is supporting Indigenous artists around Toronto. She attended Burnt Project 1's performance at Revival. Melissa was also there for Big Soul Production's celebration of Leela Gilday's 2007 Juno award, and at Toronto's Indie Trade Forum at York Quay Centre, a valuable source of information for inquisitive independent artists.

Upcoming events include our Catalyst Café in May entitled Out of the Shadows, with Dr. Dawn Martin Hill and traditional powerhouse singer Joni Shawana. Join us for an evening of song, dialogue, and an overview of colonial constructions of Native American women. This café will infuse traditional song with Indigenous knowledge and power. NWIA will produce a Deep Water Blues concert in Temagami and Bear Island in northern Ontario and in Temiskaming, northern Quebec in August 2007. In October 2007, we will be hosting our first Playwright in Residency for two weeks at the beautiful Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island.

Native Women in the Arts is proud to continue to foster the careers of thousands of Aboriginal women artists for nearly fifteen years. In 2008, we will be celebrating 15 years of artistic discovery, perseverance and excellence. This incredible Anniversary Gala will feature an outstanding lineup of Aboriginal women artists and performers - stay posted, this is certain to be an unforgettable evening.

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