Does art have the power to mend wounds and build bridges?

The National Arts Centre hopes that its month-long celebration of indigenous story telling, music, dance and spoken word performances will address the dark history of Canada's residential school system but also pave the way for healing and reconciliation. 

"It's very appropriate for the arts to play a role in this," said Genevieve Cimon, director of music education at the NAC.
"Art offers an incredible safe place where one can listen and hopefully learn and then share that experience."

Aboriginal artists of all disciplines, school children from northern communities and the National Arts Centre Orchestra will be taking part in a myriad of activities in January showcasing the accomplishments of indigenous artists while reflecting on the darker aspects of aboriginal history in this country. 

World premiere at NAC

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Mi'kmaq poet Rita Joe was invested into the Order of Canada by then governor general Ray Hnatyshyn in 1990. (Canadian Press)

Forbidden to speak her native language Mi'kmaq poet and elder Rita Joe, C.M. wrote about the loss and loneliness she felt as a little girl in a Nova Scotia residential school. Her poem, I Lost My Talk, has become an anthem to generations of aboriginal youth who see the words as a call to reclaim their voice. 

The NACO, under the baton of music director Alexander Shelley, will premiere composer John Estacio's musical ode to I Lost My Talk on Jan. 14-15. It's a multimedia performance blending, dance, music, film and narration.

"With I Lost My Talk we pushed the boundaries of the concert hall even further creating an immersive experience that engages all the senses through music, spoken word, motion and film," said Shelley in a statement.

The piece was commissioned by Maureen McTeer in honour of her husband Joe Clark's 75th birthday.  

Rita Joe song project

School children from a number of reserves across the country were asked to create their own songs inspired by the Rita Joe poem.  

The results will be unveiled on January 13 in the NAC Fourth Stage featuring performances by students from two of the Rita Joe Song Project groups, Eskasoni and Maniwaki, and either a live performance via video link or a screening of the music video from a third group in Iqaluit.

Educational and art workshops with the students will take place throughout the day at the NAC.

Joseph Boyden story

Joseph Boyden

Joseph Boyden will also take part in a panel discussion on the legacy of residential schools. (Penguin)

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet performs Going Home Star-Truth and Reconciliaton, a new dance work based on a story by Joseph Boyden that tells the contemporary love story of a young aboriginal couple coping with the scars they carry from their childhood.  (Jan. 28 to 30 in Southam Hall)

Boyden, the award winning author of Three Day Road and The Orenda, will also take part in a panel discussion on the legacy of residential schools and the role of the arts in healing.

The discussion will be moderated by Marie Wilson, a commissioner with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, with panelists Rachael Maza, the acclaimed Australian theatre director and John Estacio. (Jan. 14 Panorama Room)