Montreal, April 20, 2021 – After circulating an appeal for submissions to Indigenous artists in January 2021, Centaur Theatre is extremely proud to announce Ange Loft and the Talking Treaties Tio’tia:ke Collective as its first Indigenous Artist Residency, supported in part by the Conseil des arts de Montréal (CAM). Joining Loft as a member of the Collective is Barbara Kaneratonni Diabo, a dancer and choreographer with over 25 years’ experience, who specializes in blending traditional First Nations dance with contemporary styles and has performed throughout North America. Completing the triumvirate is Iehente Foote, an actor, stage manager, costume designer and production assistant who has worked in theatre, TV and film for 16 years. All three artists are Kanien’kehá:ka with connections in Kahnawake. The residency will be used to develop a new site-specific theatrical performance that traverses the Centaur Theatre and surrounding grounds, incorporating historic research, music, Kanien’kéha language, large scale imagery/puppetry, verbatim text, and traditional Indigenous, as well as contemporary, dance.
A three-member selection jury included: Centaur’s Artistic and Executive Director, Eda Holmes; the multi-award-winning stage actress, director/filmmaker, Juno-nominated singer/songwriter, and Gemini Award-winning puppeteer, Jani Lauzon, who is of Métis ancestry; and the successful Kanien’kehá:ka TV and film actress from Kahnawake, Kaniehtiio Horn, well-known for her roles in the TV series Letterkenny and Hemlock Grove and the Canadian films, The Trotsky and Good Neighbours.
“When we formed the Artistic Diversity Discussion @ Centaur initiative last fall, a core issue was to find ways to attract and support diverse artists. Indigenous stories are an essential part of Tio’tia:ke’s/Montreal’s heritage in the Kanien’kehá:ka/Quebec region, yet they have been missing throughout Centaur’s half-century history,” said Ms. Holmes. “When the Conseil des arts de Montréal allocated new funds to prioritize Indigenous voices, we were able to create this residency. We sought an artist who was knowledgeable of Indigenous cultures and plugged into local Indigenous artistic communities and Ange is that and more. Her curiosity, imagination and passion, combined with her wide range of talents and years of experience, make her ideal as our first Indigenous Artist-in-Residence. We are so lucky to have her; everyone at Centaur is excited to learn from her and her team and to see what magic they create while they’re here with us.”
The year-long residency beginning August 2021 will build on the momentum of Talking Treaties—a Jumblies Theatre multidisciplinary theatre initiative directed by Loft. The research behind that creation, which involved artist and historian-led interviews with Indigenous knowledge keepers, began in 2015. The Talking Treaties Spectacle was performed at the historic Fort York in 2017 and 2018, alongside several educational workshops, interactive multimedia installations and film works born of that enquiry. In December 2020, work began for Talking Treaties Tio’tia:ke with a week-long intensive held at Montreal’s Studio 303, out of which emerged the Talking Treaties Tio’tia:ke Collective. Though grounded in historical Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) narratives, Talking Treaties Tio’tia:ke will also take Tio’tia:ke’s current Indigenous populations into account, drawing commonalities and shared experiences between Indigenous populations to perpetuate the region’s evolving storyline.
“Our work is hard hitting, vibrant, and overwhelmingly fun, with a contemporary approach grounded in artistic excellence and historic accuracy”, explained Loft. “By exposing the complex relationships between Indigenous nations and colonial powers, we remind Canada and Quebec of past agreements made in trust, expose the upheaval caused by imposed ideologies and social practices and, most importantly, celebrate the resilience, resistance and resurgence of Indigenous thought.”
At the heart of the research is pre-contact governance symbolism and alliance patterns of the Haudenosaunee, particularly agreements for peace between both Indigenous and European nations in the 1700s, such as the Great Peace of Montreal between the French and a series of Indigenous Nations throughout the Great Lakes, and the Indigenous-to-Indigenous sharing arrangement, now known as the Dish with One Spoon, expressed contemporarily as, “Take only what you need, keep it clean, and save some for the future”. These agreements and other significant events played key roles in the transformation of the Indigenous landscape of Tio’tia:ke.
Working with history and archeological narrative has been a passion of Ms. Loft’s for more than 10 years. She has conducted research through the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Artist Leadership Program, and initiated the research phase of Kahnawake ReCollection to unearth knowledge about Kahnawake’s unique origin story and contemporary narratives. Her vast network of professional Indigenous creators and performers, locally as well as in Toronto and New York, will undoubtedly benefit the residency, as Loft anticipates sharing content and artists, extending aspects of the work into Kahnawake and other Indigenous communities.
Ms. Loft, an interdisciplinary performing artist and initiator from Kahnawake Kanienkeha:ka Territory, has been managing and directing Indigenous-oriented theatre initiatives for over 20 years: first at the Turtle Island Theatre Company (2000-2008), as Associate Artistic Director of Jumblies Theatre since 2015, and presently with Toronto’s Centre for Indigenous Theatre, where she teaches Story Creation in the post-secondary Indigenous training conservatory, the only one of its kind in Canada. She is an ardent collaborator, consultant, facilitator and mentor, working in storyweaving, wearable sculpture and Haudenosaunee history, who is also a vocalist with the Juno and Polaris-nominated band, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan.
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