Tailored around celebrating Indigenous culture, Celebration of Nations programming lasts all year long at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. From September 6 to September 8, it culminates in the main event — an annual gathering packed with art and traditional events. In conjunction with Kakekalanicks Indigenous Arts & Consultancy, the Performing Arts Centre brings Indigenous art and culture to the Niagara community yearly.
As always, this weekend offers a variety of events. The theme this year is “Empathic Traditions — Honouring Mother Earth” and many of the events refer back to that. A number of films will be seen over the weekend, such as documentaries First Daughter and the Black Snake and the much acclaimed Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, as well as two showings of short films from the Weengushk Film Institute. For music fans, a few different genres are showcased: for example, country duo Brothers Wilde will be performing on Saturday and Aboriginal-Canadian hip hop artist WillPowr will be making an appearance on Sunday. Visual art, theatrical performances and live poetry are on the schedule as well.
Celebration of Nations has always aimed to stretch beyond entertainment and allow for education as well, and this year is no different. One of the yearly highlights of the Celebration of Nations are the various workshops, which sets apart the celebration from others like it by allowing for audience interaction. Artists bring their talents to the event not only to share but to teach the community. Corn husk dolls, hand drums, rattlesnake shakers and baby moccasins are among a much larger list of art offered through these workshops. There’s even the option to watch an art piece come to life, as talented canoe builder Chuck Commanda works on a canoe to be proudly displayed in the Performing Arts Centre upon completion. These workshops are not only a fantastic opportunity to get in touch with one’s creative side and learn a new skill, but also allow participants to see Indigenous culture come to life before their eyes.
The mission behind this event is not only to promote Indigenous art and artists to a larger audience, but to educate these audiences on their cultures and traditions as well, fostering an atmosphere of inclusivity, empathy and respect on top of entertainment. The event is meant to build on the Two Row Wampum philosophy that promotes all nations walking together with respect, compassion and understanding to create an inclusive community. This philosophy is weaved together by all the work featured in Celebration of Nations, as well as the way in which the artists have chosen to bring their talents and stories to the community at large.
These featured events are only a selection of what the Celebration of Nations has to offer this weekend. The lineup sees a wide amount of diversity and creativity, with artists seeking to teach and include the Niagara community whether by observation or participation in a workshop. Each event is an experience that cannot be conveyed with words and may not come around again for the gathering next year.
The full lineup is available on both the Celebration of Nations and Performing Arts Centre websites, with options for ticket purchase and registration for free events. The weekend sees plenty of unique, can’t-miss opportunities, and enough variety to engage anyone in the local community.