By: Christine McFarlane
The Aboriginal Studies Program at the University of Toronto did a premiere installation at Nuit Blanche Toronto this year. Titled Medicine Walk: Breath Tracks, it was driven by students, alumni, staff and faculty of the Aboriginal Studies Department and it invited Torontonians to remember the living waters- fifty waters, tributaries, creeks and ponds that have been entombed beneath the streets of our city.
The installation invited many to pause for a moment to absorb the ambience of the Kahontake Kitikan Garden- the Native Student Assoication's Medicine garden, that is located by Hart House. Alongside drumming, a sweat lodge structure and a taped teaching by Traditional Teacher and celebrated writer Lee Maracle running in the background, it was a night that brought together many.
Medicine Walk: Breath Tracks was presented by the Aboriginal Studies Program at the University of Toronto, with Professor Dr. Jill Carter as curator, cultural advisors being Cat Criger, Lee Maracle, Alex McKay, Sylvia Plain, Michael White and the Toronto Native History Project.
According to Dr. Jill Carter “Medicine Walk” is a performance/installation that draws from all areas of Aboriginal Studies (including, language, literature, history, research methodology, Indigenous Knowledge, Native science, theatre, visual arts, governance, and truth and reconciliation). It was researched, installed, written and performed by the Aboriginal students at the University of Toronto who then staged individual and collective acts of cultural, territorial and linguistic reclamation in this site of Ceremony. Under the guidance of Aboriginal artists from the Toronto History Project Arts Collective, the students spoke, sang and danced an intricate weave of traditional, contemporary and personal stories within an art installation that works with the natural life of the Medicine Garden to re-right histories of displacement and to rewrite the original human and nonhuman “actors” into the “Gathering Place.” The focal point of the installation is the garden itself and the human bodies (which are the books upon which our histories are inscribed).
Performers included Jennifer Hammond, Jennifer Long, Christine McFarlane, Nicole Penak, Tyler Pennock, Selcuk Pir, Sylvia Plain, Lena Recollet, Erik Wexler and Madeleine Yachnin, and lastly
Hand Drummers and Singers included Nicole Penak, Connor Pion, Lena Recollet, Michael White, and Meghan Young with fellow volunteers.