Kwey, tansi, she:kon, tunngasugitsi, bonjour, and welcome to the 13th Annual New Sun Conference on Aboriginal Arts: Narrative Heart. As in the past, we acknowledge with gratitude the hospitality of the Algonquin people on whose traditional unceded territory we gather today.
The signature image for this year’s New Sun Conference is a stunningly beautiful and evocative photograph by Ottawa artist Meryl McMaster. Aptly titled Telltales, it visually captures the conference theme of Narrative Heart, suggesting, in its fluttering feathers and crimson fringe, a secure hold on the past, balanced by the figure’s resolute and youthful gaze firmly fixed on the future. A spiritual energy that springs from the land holds these elements in perfect balance. One can easily imagine the myriad voices and untold narratives carried on the soft wind, waiting to be released and shared. Such narratives of indigenous experience, promise, and possibility, couched in a range of creative expression—from photography, dance, and theatre to music, film, and storytelling—are the focus of this gathering today.
The New Sun Conference is a celebration of Aboriginal artistic achievement that pays particular attention to indigenous protocols and experiential learning, to the power of personal and communal narratives and the transformative potential of both indigenous pedagogy and the creative arts. It also respects the notions of place-based learning and space-based history. For the last nine years, on this day, Minto 5050 has been transformed into an intimate, sacred space of indigenous learning through the prayers and cleansing practices of Elder Jim Albert and the positive energy and personal gifts that each person brings with them. The resultant spirit of communal inclusivity is almost palpable; those in attendance invariably consider themselves participants and rarely mere members of an audience. Over the years, attendees have found the presentations to be enlightening, entertaining, inspiring, hopeful, and, most tellingly, “heartfelt.” It is this latter quality that has, perhaps like no other, come to distinguish the New Sun Conference and is, from the feedback received, the one that leaves the most profound and lasting impression.
Generosity is another defining feature of the New Sun Conference: especially the generosity of President Roseann O’Reilly Runte and Carleton University for providing a welcome home for indigenous knowledge within its walls; the generosity of Dr. John Osborne, Dean of Arts and Social Sciences, and New Sun (Joy Maclaren) for their continued encouragement and financial support; the generosity of all those who have sponsored students who would otherwise not have been able to attend; and the generosity of the presenters who have invariably made time in their busy lives to accept the invitation. This year we are indebted to the following:
Sandra Laronde, who will speak to the challenges and successes associated with her dual roles as Director of Indigenous Arts at the Banff Centre, and Artistic Director of Red Sky Performance, a much acclaimed indigenous dance, theatre, and music company whose work exemplifies the creative rewards of both intercultural and international collaboration. Prolific children’s author and storyteller Michael Kusugak, who will demonstrate the continued relevance of oral tradition and the value of fostering intercultural appreciation at an early age. Ottawa-based photo-artist Meryl McMaster whose international career is on a steep trajectory, and who will discuss the creative process and inspiration for many of the works in her impressive artistic portfolio. Telltales (referred to above) only hints at the breadth of her creative imagination. Jean LaRose, one of the original visionaries who conceived of The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, the first and only national Aboriginal broadcaster in the world. Under his leadership, as Chief Executive Officer since 2002, APTN has nurtured the careers of countless Aboriginal writers and filmmakers and made possible the preservation and perpetuation of indigenous narratives in a variety of native languages. A Tribe Called Red, the immensely popular Ottawa-based electric pow wow DJ/producer crew whose infectious fusion of traditional pow wow vocals and drumming with cutting-edge electronic music has introduced tribal narratives to an ever-expanding and enthusiastic global audience.
Clearly, there are many tales still to tell and many narrative voices still in the wind that ruffles fringe and feathers and enlivens the heart.
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