This past August, Planet IndigenUS celebrated the very best of Indigenous arts and culture with the co-production between the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford and at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. This was the fourth time that the acclaimed multi-disciplinary festival has occurred and over the course of ten years, the festival has grown into the largest Indigenous arts festival on the planet, hosting hundred of works of art from artists from across the world. Planet IndigenUS has had the honour of premiering, showcasing, presenting commissioning, and supporting countless Indigenous artistic works from across all artistic mediums.
The artistry at this Planet IndigenUS showcased the best in traditional and contemporary arts. From the opening gala concert featuring legendary Buffy Sainte-Marie to our closing concert featuring prominent blues band Indigenous. Cris Derksen had the crowd in awe after her performance of her original composition Pow Wow Orchestra on the WestJet Stage, and Frank Yamma had the crowd swaying to his guitar on the Stage in the Round.
Red Pepper Spectacle and Eagle Woman Singerz made the entire Harbourfront Centre site come alive with puppetry and traditional song. Kaha:wi Dance Theatre had the lawn sweating with their Pow Wow Bootcamp, while the Fleck Dance Theatre came alive with The Day of Dance, a presentation of the best in contemporary Indigenous dance.
Visual arts played a large role in this year’s festival. The installation and partnership at Fort York, InterNations/InterSections, commissioned visual artists from across the country to examine modes of transportation and trade within Indigenous cultures. re:GENERATION in the Marilyn Brewer Community Space focused on up and coming artists from the Indigenous Visual Culture Program at OCAD, while the exhibitions Nitewaké:non, In-Between Worlds, Over and Under and our land together helped to animate the entire Harbourfront Centre site.
Planet IndigenUS partnered with over 30 partners in Six Nations/Brantford/GTA to create an immersive experience. Our partnership with Right to Play for our Youth Ambassador Project was especially close to our hearts. Planet IndigenUS and Right to Play brought 15 youth and 3 mentors from 3 First Nations communities to act as social media correspondence and festival ambassadors, helping to educate festival goers about treaties. For many youth it was the first time out of the communities and they rose to the challenge of representing at the festival.
Planet IndigenUS kept the party going late at our late night events with performances cutting edge artists Moe Clark, Black Wax Project, Maxida Marak, City Natives, Tall Paul and Frank Waln, who kept the crowd engaged with beats and strong messages of activism and environmentalism.
Support from many international embassies helped to create a truly global Indigenous experience during this year’s festival. Thank you to the Royal Norwegian Embassy, The Mexican Embassy, the Ministry of Culture Taiwan, Creative New Zealand, and China Now. As well, a big thank you must go out to all our funders. We couldn’t have done it without you!
And finally, thank you to all who made it out. The festival came alive with your attendance and participation. Walking through the festival site was truly an awesome experience. To see the land populated with the sites and sound of the original people of this land brought the festival team an enormous sense of pride.
Elwood Jimmy, festival-goer and member of the Ombassin Collective had this to say: “One thing that struck me about Planet IndigenUS was the music – the big drum and hand drum music that could be heard – from the singers for our project, and then the pow wow to the east of us and round dance to the west of us. I imagined what that site would have sounded like for several thousand years pre-contact – the songs of our people with their powerful voices singing to the land and water. The sounds of that time must have been beyond brilliant.”
We couldn’t agree more.