A local musician and broadcaster has launched a new indigenous-focused livestream performance series to help people find meaning, connection and a deeper appreciation of the arts in uncertain times.
Gabriola Island resident Cassandra Blondin-Burt, host of Medicine Talk Radio on Vancouver Island University’s CHLY radio station, started her Medicine Talk Connector series in mid-March, just around the time COVID-19 precautions led to the cancellation of gatherings and the closure of venues. Blondin-Burt said the pandemic is taking an existential toll as well.
“I feel like right now with the COVID-19 crisis and everyone staying home and our social institutions so being disrupted, so many people feel like … the things the previously defined them, how they felt about themselves, how they went about their day, aren’t there,” she said. “So people are struggling for meaning.”
Blondin-Burt said the arts have a therapeutic role they can play in guiding people through the COVID-19 era. She said her series is aimed at “connecting people with artists and with stories that help them retain their resilience and come out the other end maybe not stronger, but better off than we would have been.”
Blondin-Burt, whose family hails from the Yellowknives Dene First Nation in the Northwest Territories and also has Scottish and Scandinavian ancestry, said that while performing arts are sometimes “devalued to simply entertainment,” “without generalizing too much, with indigenous culture, people who make music, people who create songs, who create performance, are medicine people. They are core to our survival. Our spiritual thriving.”
“More than anything right now I wanted to put forward this idea that the indigenous music makers, performers and medicine people, the story tellers, are actually giving birth to the medicine that we need for our societies, indigenous or not,” she said. “And that by coming together and connecting, even in this crisis, and dancing together and moving together and listening to music together, that we can really co-create the kind of society ideals that we want to see happen.”
While the Medicine Talk Connector is streaming musicians and dancers for now, in the future Blondin-Burt is thinking of bringing in spoken word poets and theatre artists, as well as speakers to discuss topics like indigenous and non-indigenous relation building and other informative content.
“I’m looking at showcasing holistic experts in well-being to talk about mental health and physical health during the COVID-19 crisis,” she said. “We’re trying to become a platform that just puts out good messages that don’t forget the crisis that we’re in but that give us tools of resilience to get through it.”
Information about upcoming streams is available on the Medicine Talk Connector Facebook page.