Artists are awakening cultural connections during the first annual First Nations Christmas Art Show and Cultural Festival.
“I’m looking forward to everyone coming down and having fun in the holiday season and really showing who we are as First Nations,” said Patrick Aleck Jr., festival co-emcee.
The festival, slated for Sunday to Wednesday (Dec. 20-23) at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, is a gathering showcasing the talents of First Nations visual and performing artists.
Event organizer Fred Anderson said he wants the festival to continue to grow.
“We want to become the largest cultural festival on the Island and maybe even in B.C. to promote First Nation art and culture, and positivity,” he said.
Although this is the inaugural festival, in the past Anderson co-ordinated an art and culture show at Port Place Shopping Centre.
This year, drummers are invited to participate in a drumming session Dec. 22 from 8-9 p.m. The gathering is to promote connection and to “honour our human family,” according to the festival agenda.
“It doesn’t matter what cultural background you come from. Come down and sing and drum in unison with us,” said Anderson.
He said the main reason he decided to create the festival was to help the artists and “support their way of life,” because during the holiday season everything slows down.
“We all have our own story and for a lot of us, art saved our lives,” said Anderson. “Art is what has given me my life back.”
He spent several years in foster care and as a result developed post traumatic stress disorder. Art allowed him to deal with it in a positive way.
“We want them to know that some of the songs and dances they will never see again in their lifetime,” said Anderson. “My dad is actually bringing out masks I’ve only seen once in my life.”
The festival starts at noon Sunday with a special cedar-cutting opening ceremony with Snuneymuxw First Nation elder Gary Manson and Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay. Activities run until 9 p.m. During the rest of the festival activities run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. There will be a wide range of art for sale from carvings to jewelry and more. It will also feature the work of Elvis (Qaqianon) Wolki, who carves pieces out of mammoth ivory.
Featured entertainment is scheduled daily from 7-8 p.m. and the open stage entertainment runs at various times throughout the day. Entertainment includes traditional drummers and dancers from The Kwagiulth Nation, a presentation by Metis Neechi Steppers; a performance by Viva Mexico Folk Dancers Association and a fashion show by Aylelum featuring the designs of Sophia and Nadia Good from the Snuneymuxw First Nation.
There is also an open stage for local entertainers. People who wish to paricipate must have album CDs to sell, no busking is allowed. To participate please contact Anderson at Awaken The Spirit firstname.lastname@example.org.
A silent auction, features donations from artists, runs from Dec. 20 starting at noon until Dec. 22 at 6 p.m. There is also a special Loonie Toonie Auction to raise money running at various times throughout the event.
Money raised from the auction will go to Awaken The Spirit.
The organization works with First Nations youths through development programs that focus on self empowerment and self-esteem, healing and other topics.
For more information about the festival, being held at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, and a schedule of events please go to http://awakenthespirit.ca.