Welcome to Carleton University and the 9th Annual New Sun Conference on Aboriginal Arts: Something Else Again! As in the past, we acknowledge with gratitude the hospitality of the Algonquin people on whose traditional unceded territory we gather today.
This year’s theme Something Else Again!, is in part self-referential, highlighting the distinctly hybrid character of the New Sun Conference as it has evolved: it is less formal than a conventional scholarly conference, yet more academic than a traditional cultural festival. It is Something Else Again! Drawing from both indigenous and western pedagogical traditions, the conference strives to be entertaining, educational, communal, and inspiring.
Implicit in the theme Something Else Again! is the spirit of creative renewal that continues to enliven Aboriginal communities, never failing to surprise and uplift. Most assuredly, fusion and fluidity of concepts and identities affirm a vibrant contemporary indigenous culture.
Intrinsic to the New Sun Conference is the notion of spiritual space, cleansed and purified with sweetgrass and sage. It is a safe and welcoming space, an intimate space, where stories are recounted, life journeys shared, artistic acts explored, and creativity demystified (or not!). It is a space where personal and cultural narratives never fail to penetrate the arbitrary and artificial boundaries that often separate us. It is an inclusive space. It is a nourishing and hopeful space.
Nourishment comes in many forms. Over the years, the gourmet luncheon of Aboriginal cuisine has become an increasingly important component of the conference, allowing both presenters and guests to share a meal together, socialize, establish, and reactivate connections, and reflect on the morning’s presentations. The luncheon also affords an opportunity to enjoy an exclusive musical performance by an acclaimed Aboriginal artist, again in close and intimate surroundings.
Diversity of artistic activity has always been a hallmark of the New Sun Conference. A mix of writers, musicians, visual artists, filmmakers (and even chefs) yields a rich and engaging conversation. One is invariably struck by the wealth of creativity that exists within Aboriginal communities. For some, this is a revelation. For everyone, it is a celebration. No less important than diversity is the mix of gender, experience, and representation from First Nations, Metis, Inuit, and non-Native communities.
Finally, as the New Sun Conference has evolved so has its aesthetic presence, in both print and web media. This is appropriate to both the event, and the people and communities it honours.
The 2010 Conference
In 2007, the theme of the 6th Annual New Sun Conference was Survivance: More Than Mere Survival. The individual responsible for injecting the concept of “survivance” into the discourse on contemporary Aboriginal experience, while radically refiguring the field of Aboriginal literature and storytelling, is internationally renowned author Gerald Vizenor, who is with us today. Also present is Christi Belcourt who both honours and perpetuates the artistry of traditional Metis floral bead workers in her lush and intricately painted canvases—no more so than in her magnificent mural My Heart (Is Beautiful), which she has generously loaned us for the conference. Rounding out the slate of morning presenters is Manon Barbeau, director of the innovative and hugely successful Wapikoni Mobile film and video making program, which introduces numerous Aboriginal youth to new possibilities of artistic expression. Filmmaker Abraham Cote, a graduate of the Wapikoni program, joins Manon today. Following the luncheon break, Navajo printmaker Marwin Begaye discusses his efforts to raise awareness of diabetes and other Aboriginal health issues through incisive and at times wickedly funny imagery in his powerful series What’s Your Sugar? A fitting conclusion to a day dedicated to the liberated indigenous imagination, and the free fusion of aesthetic traditions, is the presentation by singer Tanya Tagaq who will also perform at the luncheon. It promises to be an especially memorable day.
All my relations,
Allan J. Ryan
A presentation of the New Sun Chair in Aboriginal Art and Culture,
with the support of the Dean of Arts and Social Sciences and the New Sun Fund
administered by the Community Foundation of Ottawa, plus the generosity of private donors