Thursday, May 28, 2015

Pathway 3: Food and Ecology

Winona LaDuke
Our third pathway through the Origins Festival is themed around food and ecology - and the start point for that just has to be Winona LaDuke's Lecture on Monday 15th June.  Winona is the founder of the Honour The Earth project, which she runs from the White Earth reservation in Minnesota.  She combines a deep understanding of her Native culture with an impassioned engagement in contemporary issues, that has led her twice to stand for the Vice-Presidency of the United States, running alongside Green candidate Ralph Nader.  Honour the Earth states:  "We are committed to the understanding that Indigenous peoples are key in the work to address climate change and energy justice -- from our teachings and wisdom of thousands of years living within our cultural practices, to our strategic position in terms of renewable energy and retaining agro-biodiversity in a time of climate change. Our work is in restoring these knowledge systems and practices, strengthening consciousness, and creating the durable energy and food economies for Native America. "  The rare opportunity to hear this inspirational speaker in London really is unmissable.  We are also screening a film about her life: Thunderbird Woman.

Another inspiring Native American woman is Chef Lois Ellen Frank, who joins us with Chef Walter Whitewater to create an amazing Native American Gourmet Lunch.  It promises to be totally delicious, way outside our usual London food experiences, and imbued with the traditional food knowledge and ecological beliefs of First Nations people.  After the lunch, Lois will be talking with Graham Harvey about Food and Spirituality.
Voladores de Papantla
Also ecological in inspiration is the spectacular ceremony of the Voladores de Papantla.  An ancient Totonac ritual, associated with regeneration and natural cycles, it is particularly appropriate that it is performed in London at the summer solstice.  Their ceremony at Horniman's Pleasance is followed by another Meso-American performance about regeneration: the Mayan Grupo Sotz'il present Oxlajuj B'aqtun.  At the 2012 winter solstice, the Mayan calendar moved into a new era: in this shamanic play, the meaning of this cosmic change is explored in terms of our relationship to the Earth, to the animals, and to our common humanity.

Oxlajuj B'aqtun
If all this leaves you in need of some personal re-balancing, why not try a little Ayahuasca, courtesy of José Navarro?  The Amazonian halluconegenic may be a bit tricky to find in London, but José's solo performance for an audience of one is about the closest you can get!  Book your slot for a five-minute encounter with this masterful piece of puppetry.  

The environment is central to indigenous Australian culture too.  The Tracks exhibition at the Rebecca Hossack gallery features some remarkable paintings, made in response to the spiritual idea of "Country"; while Charlie's Country, screening at Hackney Picturehouse, makes a powerful case for a re-connection to the land and to traditional ways of finding and preparing food - the mass-produced food of the white world is poisoning Charlie's people.

Two other films finish off this particular pathway: from opposite ends of the earth, they each deal with the relationship between indigenous people and the natural world.  From New Zealand, the classic Whale Rider sees a Māori girl form a powerful bond with the great sea mammal - and from the Canadian Arctic, Uvanga offers a rare glimpse into the life of the Inuit, and their close ties to land and sea.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pathway 2: Politics and Protest

Oxlajuj B'aqtun
Origins has always been a political festival, and this year's programme particularly reflects the worldwide indigenous protest against continuing imperialism, economic colonisation, and the destruction of the environment.  Grupo Sotz'il, for example, are performing their great production Oxlajuj B'aqtun, which has been acclaimed across Latin America for its moving response to the genocide committed against the Mayan people of Guatemala, and especially the assassination in 2010 of the group's inspirational founder Lisandro Guarcax.  His words form the epigraph to their work: “We wish that all our efforts will be translated into the knowledge of the others”.
Winona LaDuke
Winona LaDuke, who gives this year's Origins Lecture, is probably the most important Native political leader in the United States.  Founder of the project Honour the Earth, Winona lives on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, where she practises an environmentally balanced lifestyle, at the same time as leading the protest against the destruction of indigenous lands, which is a threat not only to indigenous people, but to the whole of humanity.  She has twice stood as the Green candidate for the Vice-Presidency of the United States.  On 15th June, she will speak at Rich Mix about the indigenous approach to ecology, politics and protest in the 21st century.  And, if you want to know more about her, there's a film about her life too, called Thunderbird Woman.  

There are plenty of other talks with a political edge - but the one we'd particularly mention is the Menzies Centre talk with Indigenous Australian writer and campaigner David Milroy.  David has been involved with Origins from its inception, and is always fascinating and entertaining at once when he deal with his passion for Aboriginal land rights and cultural survival.
Our film programme is equally uncompromising in its approach to political questions.  Standstill, which opens the film festival on June 10th, find links between the long resistance of the Mohawk people to colonisation, and the current situation of the Palestinian people.  To view the Palestinians as the indigenous subjects of a colonial power throws a whole new light on the conflict there.

Benny Wenda and the Lani Singers
West Papua is another land where the indigenous people are fighting against aggressive colonialism today, and the Festival welcomes their exiled leader Benny Wenda - twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize - to the screening of The Road to Home, a documentary about his remarkable life, and to sing the songs of his native land at The Origins Concert.  Meeting Benny is an experience you will not forget.
Just Another Sámi
Closer to home, the Sámi people of the European Arctic are also engaged in a struggle for land, ecology and culture.   Norwegian company Ferske Scener's Just Another Sámi is a dramatic and musical howl of protest against oppression in lands surprisingly close to home.
Beautiful One Day
The Politics and Protest Pathway reaches through to the closing event of the Festival, brought to London from Australia's Torres Strait Islands by Ilbijerri Theatre Company.  Beautiful One Day is a protest against ongoing racism and the scandal of Aboriginal deaths in custody, starting from one particular death on Palm Island in 2004.  It is also a love letter to an environment and a way of living that somehow endure, in spite of everything.

After the Festival is over, the echoes of protest will remain.  Palpably so, in the form of Elliot Tupac's street art.  Elliott has re-defined mural painting in Latin America with his fusion of indigenous Andean art and the roar of the contemporary city.  Origins brings his work to London, leaving a lasting reminder of the Politics and Protest pathway.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Pathway through the Origins Festival. 1. Elders and Youth

Zugubal Dancers
The programme for the Origins Festival is vast - our biggest yet by far - so it can be quite a challenge to find your way around it.  To help out, we've traced three Pathways through the Festival, following the key themes that we used in programming, which we will publish over the coming days.  The three  themes are:
  • Elders and Youth
  • Politics and Protest
  • Food and Ecology
So today, we start with the Pathway -

Elders and Youth

The Zugubal Dancers almost embody this theme in the make-up of their group: eight young dancers, and two Elders who are travelling with them from the Torres Strait Islands.  Indigenous Australians have a great reverence for Elders, and these two are coming to provide stability and guidance for a group travelling far from their home 'country'.  You can see them performing at the Origins Concert and Indigenous Australia Late - Origins Festival at the British Museum.

The host for that night at the British Museum is another Australian Elder, Francis Firebrace, who will give you a taste of the traditional Elder's welcome.  If you want to hear more of the wisdom Francis has accumulated in his 80 years, then come to his storytelling event at Rich Mix, where he will be yarning for children and adults alike.

Museums are, of course, all about the relationships between generations, and we are really excited to be working so closely with the British Museum.  To find out more about the dialogues going on between museum curators and indigenous communities, come to the panel debate at Rich Mix, where there will be a wide range of differing opinions to be heard!

Staying with Australia, the Festival is really excited to be presenting all three of Rolf de Heer's films with the great veteran Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil.  The most recent, Charlie's Country, is the story of an Elder who finds it impossible to live in the contemporary world.  With strong elements of autobiography, Gulpilil charts a process of dislocation, and shows the possibility of redemption in Charlie's contact with the young.
Hamaca Paraguaya
A very different film, Hamaca Paraguaya also looks at the world through the eyes of the Elders: in this case an ageing Guarani couple, whose son has gone off to the Chaco War.  Originally commissioned by our Patron Peter Sellars, the film is an extraordinary meditation on time, mourning, and old age.

Our other Latin American film is El Regreso  from Venezuela - a film that concentrates not on Elders but on Youth.  The protagonist is Shliwala, a ten year old Wayuu girl, who survives the massacre in her village only to be faced with the alien world of the contemporary city.  The child actors are quite incredible.
Oxlajuj B’aqtun
Staying with Latin America, your Elders and Youth Pathway leads to our special outdoor event at Horniman's Pleasance, and especially to the inspired Mayan theatre company Grupo Sotz'il.  Their ritualised play Oxlajuj B’aqtun was made in response to their founder's assassination and the great change in the Mayan calendar, and so embodies a shift between generations and eras.

Finally, let your Pathway wind back to the Torres Strait, and Ilbijerri Theatre Company's Beautiful One Day at the Southbank.  A play which unites theatre professionals with the Elders and Youth of Palm Island, Beautiful One Day is full of a love for country and community, as well as an anger at their destruction.  The calm presence of Auntie Maggie Blackley at the centre of the performance is a reflection of the truly integrated nature of indigenous cultures: especially as the company will also be travelling with a very young baby.  The next generation of Palm Islanders will be here to direct your eyes forward beyond this Pathway.