Although we have this tragic point in our histories, nothing killed our freedom to express, our joy of expression and our appreciation of culture both old and modern.
—Columpa Bobb, MTYP's Aboriginal Arts Program Director
This is a tale of two Aboriginal communities from opposite sides of the world coming together to find common ground.
Manitoba Theatre for Young People's Aboriginal Arts Program has invited the company Marrugeku to Winnipeg. They come from Broome, which is a remote community in the far northwest of Western Australia.
While here, the two troupes have been holding workshops together on storytelling, working on bringing the stories to life and sharing games. They've also been participating in public events, such as a welcoming ceremony and a Pow-Wow at the University of Winnipeg.
"It's been an eye-opening experience to share our knowledge," says dancer Damien Ralphs from Australia, "but more to learn other peoples' knowledge as well and find that we all have differences and that we're all unique but we all have common ground that we can forge together on."
Columpa Bobb is Program Director of the Aboriginal Arts Program. She's enthusiastic about the sharing of culture that has been taking place.
"One of the things I hope the youth of both companies take out of this is ownership of culture, ownership of artistic expression. Because they are the next cultural leaders. It was a beautiful sight to see old cultural stories being explored in a very contemporary youth culture medium and genre."
"I think it's really important that culture keep changing with the times, that the essence of who we are remains the same, but the vehicles we use to express those essences of our peoples should indeed change with the generations to come."
Marrugeku is currently performing on the stage of MTYP. Their eye-catching show, called Buru, involves stilt-walking, dance, rap music and live musicians. The production is based on the Yawuru culture and people of Broome. It tells both traditional and contemporary stories, exploring young people's relationship with the environment in Broome.
After this stage of the program, the Winnipeg Aboriginal youths hope to visit Australia where they will work on developing a collaborative work with Marrugeku.
"Although we have this tragic point in our histories," says Bobb, "nothing killed our freedom to express, our joy of expression and our appreciation of culture both old and modern."
Under the direction of Columpa Bobb, a First Nations Empowerment-Through-the-Arts specialist, the Ab Arts program's enrollment has grown to over 600 Aboriginal children and youth, making it the most extensive program of its kind in Canada. The Arts Training & Mentorship Program is designed specifically for urban Aboriginal youth in Winnipeg. Instruction covers many facets of artistic expression from acting, performance skills, theatre crafts, storytelling, film, multi-media, writing, to sculpture, video and photography.