Panel at Fringe to explore next steps for Indigenous storytellers

For thousands of years, the Edmonton area has been a gathering place for Indigenous people to talk about issues affecting them.

On Tuesday, the space will be used to talk about the next steps for Indigenous art in the community.

Theatre artist Hunter Cardinal has seen an increased emphasis on Indigenous works, but is leading a conversation about what Indigenous storytelling might look like in the future.

“Every story is important — what I’m hearing, though, is a problematic victim-centred gaze of indigeneity of us always being tied to our trauma and our history,” Cardinal told CBC’s Radio Active. “The result we often get is a very limited narrative that is often dependent on colonization.”

A show that tackles the topic of appropriation of indigenous people. We talk to the creator of fringe show, “Whiteface” 7:02

The panel will discuss where Indigenous storytellers might want to go in the future as well as the kinds of stories they wish to tell, which could include stories that don’t involve trauma, assimilation or cultural appropriation. 

“We of course won’t answer that in the hour discussion, but what we want to do is think a little bit longer and say, ‘OK, so this conversation needs to happen,'” he said.

“We can start that conversation.”

Lady Vanessa Cardona, a Colombian spoken word artist, will be a part of the panel Tuesday. She finds it challenging to see commonalities in her experience as a first-generation immigrant woman to Edmonton and the Canadian Indigenous experience outside of hardships they’ve faced.

“I am finding it difficult sometimes to have those commonalities without talking about trauma,” she said. “I think that’s an exciting conversation for me to have.”

Cardona wrote Whiteface, a performance where two Indigenous actors play white people pretending to be Indigenous. She’s performing it at this year’s Fringe Festival.

In Whiteface, Lady Vanessa Cardona and Todd Houseman subvert the idea of ‘red face.’ (Whiteface Productions)

“I am going right now through a lot of reclaiming identity,” she said, and conversations like the upcoming panel will help guide her through it.

Cardinal doesn’t expect to come to conclusions to any questions proposed during the panel but simply wants to help everyone — including himself — figure out where to go next.

“It’s not to get it right, but it’s to do something right now,” Cardinal said.

The panel discussion will be at the Maclab Wine Tent between 103rd and 104th Street and 83rd Avenue at the Fringe on Tuesday at 8 p.m.

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