Kitchener-Waterloo

Storytelling project weaves Indigenous oral history with diverse Waterloo community stories

The Debajehmujig Theatre Group from the Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island are in Waterloo region this week working on a unique storytelling project that will weave Indigenous oral history with local experiences that will result in a unique performance Saturday.

Workshops held this week will help shape a storytelling performance Saturday evening

Bruce Naokwegijig is the artistic director for the Debajehmujig Theatre Group, which is based in the the Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

The Debajehmujig Theatre Group from the Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island are in Waterloo region this week working on a unique storytelling project that will weave Indigenous oral history with local experiences and will result in a unique performance Saturday.

Divest Waterloo helped bring the Debajehmujig Theatre Group to the region. Throughout the week they're putting on storytelling workshops along with a local advisory circle led by Heather Majaury and Amy Duguid.

The theatre group is based in the Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island.

Bruce Naokwegijig is the artistic director of the Debajehmujig Theatre Group.

"It's taking away the theatrics. It's taking away the lights. It's taking away all the sound cues in your regular theatre production, and it's just us being with the audience," he said.

Earlier in the week, gatherings included a traditional feast and workshops for newcomers and land and water defenders. On Thursday, the workshop will focus on patrons of The Working Centre and Friday will be arts workers storytelling.

It will all culminate in a public performance of Maamawi on Saturday at 7 p.m.

That performance is in the style of traditional storytelling, he says.

They remove the fourth wall, he said, which is the general rule that those on stage don't acknowledge the audience.

"In this one, you make eye contact with the audience, you invite them into your world as you tell the story so you're making greater connections," he said.

Laura Hamilton of Divest Waterloo said it took about three years to bring the group to the region. They wanted to do it to draw attention to the current global climate crisis.

"What we're showing people now is that art and theatre connects with people's hearts, and really what we need is to change our world views. We need to change how we engage with each other and with the land. It's not about changing what we do — it's about changing how we think and how we feel," she said.

Saturday's performance at the University of Waterloo's Performing Arts Theatre starts at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the community, Naokwegijig noted.

"We can tell these stories to everybody," he said. "It's just the idea of sharing the stories and as we say in the show, it's up to you how you use these stories and if you want to take them and carry on with them, it's your choice. We're just here to share with you."

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