June 25, 2013

The Honouring and The Road

Native-inspired performances at Fort York mostly hit the mark with melancholy subject matter

By Paula CitronWhat could be more surreal than a tomahawk-wielding Iroquois war party in full regalia with Toronto skyscrapers as a backdrop? Such was Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s stirring new site-specific work, The Honouring, choreographed by Santee Smith.

The Honouring was part of the Indigenous Arts Festival @ Fort York, a celebration of the First Nations’ contributions to the War of 1812 presented by the City of Toronto. Also receiving its world premiere was the ambitious play The Road, written and directed by Herbie Barnes. While the dance piece took place outdoors, the play was presented in the Blue Barracks.

On the zeitgeist level, one came away from the performances with a sense of melancholy. The Honouring touches on the fact that 10,000 Haudenosaunee warriors died for the British cause against the Americans. (Haudenosaunee is the Aboriginal name for Iroquois.) The Road deals with the aftermath of the war and the trail of broken promises.

As Smith points out in her program notes, the native warriors took part in the war as “sovereign nation allies,” in other words, on equal footing with the British. But, as The Road depicts, what followed was an attempt at a systematic destruction of First Nation culture. What the audience takes away from these performances is, perhaps, an understanding of the Idle No More protest, whose roots go back 200 years.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see 1812 Survivors Take The Road.

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