Painting a different picture: Contemporary Indigenous artists gather in Brantford

Part of the display of Indigenous culture, that is Planet IndigenUS, will take place at the Woodland Cultural Centre between Aug. 10 and 19. The festival takes place every three years and activities will occur at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto as well. This year the Woodland Cultural Centre had decided to play a bigger role in the festival. “We are trying to bump up the level of performers we have here because we found there were really big acts for Toronto but we want Woodland to have a higher profile,” said Naomi Johnson, artistic associate for the Woodland Cultural Centre.

Planet IndigenUS is the largest multidisciplinary arts festival in the world for indigenous peoples. It encompasses Indigenous people from all around the world, not just from North America. Performers are coming as far as Australia and China for the festival.

“The theme this year is Celebrating the Crossroads,” said Johnson. “The goal of the festival is to try and create awareness for contemporary Indigenous artists and we have various different artists coming to the festival.”

Aside from contemporary Indigenous artists scheduled events will include musicians, dancers, and even stand up comedians. The performances are happening between Toronto and Brantford simultaneously each with their own schedule although the kickoff of the event will occur at the Harbourfront Centre on August 10.

“We have renown stand up comedians coming this year like Don Burnstick and Charlie Hill,” said Johnson. “We really tried to program with Six Nations in mind but we’re also bringing people like Rhombus, a New Zealand group. So we’re trying to mix it up a bit.”

Johnson explained that the festival is about demonstrating there is more to Indigenous culture than Pow-wows. The co-artistic directors echo this sentiment.

“Through our contemporary cultural leaders in visual arts, crafts, film, dance, theatre, music, storytelling, and many, other forms we share our visions and voices for a future filled with power and renewal,” reads the curatorial statement by Marc Merilainen and Janis Monture, co-artistic directors. “Planet IndigenUS will evoke a sense of transformation of ideals about Indigenous cultures.”

The festival is backed by a number of sponsors and gets program funding and support from organizations like the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. The festival only occurs every three years because it takes that time to prepare all the fundraising, resources, and activities. Right after the end of this year’s Planet IndigenUS, reports will be done evaluating pros and cons of the event to prepare for the next one.

The funding allows the event to be easily accessible to the public.

“All the events are free with the exception of two, which are the comedian nights and [Juno Award winner] Susan Aglukark,” said Johnson. “We’re hoping this continues to grow and grow over the years.”


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