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International flavour to stew of performing, visual arts
It was an “international stew” at this year’s Rubaboo Festival.
“It’s quite incredible how much the festival is growing,” said Ryan Cunningham, artistic director and one of two founding members of Alberta Aboriginal Arts, which hosts the event. It is the Rubaboo Festival’s fourth year. Rubaboo is a Métis word meaning a stew full of life that fills the soul.
Crowds gathered at the Catalyst Theatre in the Old Strathcona area of the city to take in the 11-day performing and visual arts festival. This year, the local Aboriginal scene was spiced up with offerings from Australia and the United States, as well as Toronto, Ontario, and Vancouver.
Highlighting the event was the world premiere of the first part of the three-part production They Shoot Buffalo Don’t They? The end of the festival saw the special viewing of the second part of the production, still in its developmental stage. Cunningham wrote They Shoot Buffalo Don’t They? and directed the first part with Troy Emery Twigg as choreographer. Part two, presented as a work-in-progress, was directed by Australian dancer Ian RT Colless, who now resides and works in New York City. The third part of They Shoot Buffalo Don’t They? will begin development next year, says Cunningham.
The other half of Alberta Aboriginal Arts, Christine Sokaymoh Frederick, took part in the family day reading of scripts still in development. Cunningham joined Frederick for the readings as did Sable Sweetgrass.
Other highlights of the Rubaboo Festival included Gemini-award winning actor Michelle Thrush’s one-woman play Finding Your Inner Elder. Thrush debuted the performance on the first day of the festival and then took her performance on the road to northern Alberta.
Georgina Lightning was in attendance for the screening of her film “Older Than America,” which she wrote and directed. She shares acting credits with well-known performers Adam Beach, Bradley Cooper and Tantoo Cardinal. Lightning hosted a question and answer session after the screening.
From acting to dancing, Rubaboo offered performances by Raven Spirit Dance, from Vancouver, and ended the festival with a “hoop battle,” which saw multiple dancers work with a single hoop.
“This is the beginning of another long term project to happen over the next few years,” said Cunningham.
The Rubaboo Festival was also the site of the launch of Dianne Meili’s fifth book, Those Who Know.
“I liked the celebratory aspect of this launch, because the people in this book have lived humble and worthwhile lives as keepers of the culture, and it’s good that they are recognized for what they’ve accomplished in their communities,” said Meili, who was joined by special guest writers and authors Marilyn Dumont and Naomi McIlwraith. The evening readings were accompanied by music by Darla Daniels.
Those Who Know was published 20 years ago. This second version includes updated profiles and new interviews. Meili traveled to 25 communities around Alberta speaking to leaders identified by their own people.
“Their combined words create a portrait of the best there is in Aboriginal culture and they are a bridge between the old and new ways. I wrote this book for children seven generations from now, who might not ever know what it means to hunt a moose and feed people, or fast on a mountain seeking a vision,” said Meili.
An Aboriginal craft fair rounded out the 11-day event.
“(The Rubaboo Festival) is an opportunity for us to show both contemporary and traditional work and also a platform for us to develop new works,” said Cunningham.
Photo caption: Grass dancer Jason E. Skani, from Cold Lake First Nation, accompanied by drummer Leo Paskemin, from Sweetgrass First Nation, blessed the ground for the Rubaboo Festival.
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