Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Planet IndigenUs puts new face on aboriginal culture

A two-year-old festival aims to break aboriginal stereotypes through the celebration of classical music and art.

Planet IndigenUs, an arts festival showcasing aboriginal artists from Canada and abroad, will feature aboriginal fashion, a corn soup cook off, and Juno nominee Crystal Shawanda.

The 10-day festival begins Friday at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre and Brantford's Woodland Cultural Centre. It will feature over 361 artists from around the world including Canada, Australia and Mexico.

"The goal of the festival is to bring down stereotypes," said Artistic Director Janis Monture. "We want to show that people are adapted to the indigenous world. We hope people can find [indigenous culture] in them[selves]."

The first weekend features a performance from an Australian dance theatre group, Polytoxic. The show, entitled Teuila Postcards, depicts the breaking down of stereotypes through the use of dance and comedy.

The festival will also feature a Canadian premiere of family drama Falemlama from award-winning Auckland playwright Dianna Fuemana.

Planet IndigenUs includes a variety of musical concerts including an all Canadian Planet IndigenUs Festival Orchestra, which will kick off the festival with a classical program.

Musicians Tracy Bone and J.C. Cambell will also be on hand and will show how indigenous cultures have embraced country music.

The festival features a number of exhibitions, workshops, readings, films and family activities.

One of the themes at this year's festival is "inspired by the world." which according to Monture, refers to how aboriginal artists have embraced such influences as country music, films and hockey and "have made it part of their world."

This is the second time Planet IndigenUs will take place. The festival, which first debuted in 2004, was created to teach people about indigenous culture.

Community tents at the event will enable local artists to join in and share their own artistic talents.

"We hope people come away with [an experience] and see that the culture is very much still here," said Monture. "We're not an ancient civilization; we're very much alive."

Other than the performances of Teuila Postcards and Falemlama, the rest of the festival is free.

Planet IndigenUs runs until Aug. 23.

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