The following is excerpted from UVic News.
The University of Victoria and the Farquhar at UVic have launched Voices in Circle: Amplifying Indigenous Cultural Voices, a presenting and engagement series featuring established and emerging Indigenous artists.
The series will feature Indigenous artists from all over Canada whose work spans everything from music, dance, theatre, burlesque, drag, comedy and mixed media to visual arts. The program is guided by an Indigenous and Métis Programming Circle, a change from traditional programme curation where an arts organization’s leadership are cultural gatekeepers.
“Decolonization is more than just changing the line up of performers to represent diversity,” says Lindsay Delaronde, programming circle member, arts and craft professional and former City of Victoria Artist in Residence. “Decolonization is dismantling the colonial power structures at the center that keep dominant voices perpetuating in the arts. Co-creating an artistic vision requires all voices to be heard, deep listening and deep reflections are constant.”
“We’re making space for a new way of doing things,” says Farquhar Director Ian Case. “UVic is committed to walking the path towards truth and reconciliation, and Canada’s arts and cultural sector is changing. We’re committed to changing with it.”
Voices in Circle stands among a small number of Canadian universities’ presentation series that focus on Indigenous performance and community engagement. “Other universities have started speakers series and have increased representation in arts,” says Case. “But Voices in Circle appears to be unique in its approach to planning and implementing how Indigenous artists engage with audiences.”
“This initiative is taking the first steps in true decolonization of institutionalized artistic spaces,” says programming circle member, carver and musician Tejas Collison.
The series goes beyond performances. Programming circle members are working with the Farquhar to weave in meaningful community engagement activities to complement performances. Artists will engage with the general public, local artists, Elders and Indigenous communities to explore cultural resurgence, language revitalization, artistic collaborations and mentorship opportunities—in addition to more traditional audience engagements like panel discussions.
“Indigenous voices are on the rise and we need to create civic engagement and creative atmospheres that support shifting the paradigm,” adds Delaronde.
“Voices in Circle is doing the important work of talking the talk and more importantly walking the walk. By implementing a decolonized approach to meetings and discussions,” says Collison, “these values are carried through out all aspects of the initiative… shining a much-needed light on the often underrepresented Indigenous artists from around BC.”
“It has been so powerful to sit together with other Indigenous and Métis people and to speak openly and honestly about what we see in our communities,” says Rebecca Hass, Programming Circle member, Métis performance artist and Director of Engagement Programs at Pacific Opera Victoria. “What is needed, and how to best offer that up. To speak for those who have not been in these spaces is a responsibility, but also so encouraging.”
Hass adds, “Working with the Farquhar, through Ian Case, has given us the time and space to co-create a circle of leadership, and a way of co-leading that honours all the voices in the room, creating more opportunity to be of benefit to our local Indigenous communities. We are building trust through relationships built on respect and a true sharing of power. “
Among the first artists to be featured are:
Juno award-winning performer, composer, activist and musicologist Jeremy Dutcher (Sept. 9)
Inuit sisters PiqSiq, performing haunting traditional and original compositions (Oct. 12)
Canadian Hip-Hop superstar due of Haisla and Snotty Nose Rez Kids (Nov. 30)
a variety show featuring local Indigenous Artists (February 2023)
Winnipeg-based multi-instrumental singer-songwriter and Sebastian Gaskin, last year’s Western Canadian Music Award-winner for R&B Artist of the Year (March 11).
Voices in Circle is supported by funding from the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage and through the Province of BC through the BC Arts Council. Tickets are on sale to the public on July 22, 2022 through the UVic Ticket Centre.