Northern lights, Indigenous storytelling coming to Confederation Park

Photo by Vincent Guth.

Next month, an interactive light and sound experience will be on display in Confederation Park in downtown Kingston. Visitors can experience Indigenous-inspired stories, told using a combination of original art and audio recordings and featuring Ontario-based Indigenous artists and storytellers.

From March 10 to 31, 2023, Waawaateg (meaning ‘There is a display of the northern lights’ in Anishinaabemowin-Ojibway) will feature a large, vibrant, interactive light installation in Confederation Park fountain, reflecting the ever-flowing greens and purples of the northern lights along with unique art installations created by Indigenous Peoples, according to a release from the Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Area (BIA).

“A special relationship has been built between Downtown Kingston and members of the Indigenous community as we worked together to offer space to experience Indigenous story, art, and language. It’s an opportunity to begin conversations around storytelling in the downtown centre, hear Indigenous voices, and experience Indigenous languages,” said Kimberly Debassige, Anishinaabe-Kwe and a Teaching Fellow at Queens University in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures. “It is our hope that this is just the beginning of ongoing opportunities to bring people together to share, explore and celebrate Indigenous culture and teachings.”

According to the release, QR codes on each piece of art can be scanned to enjoy an audio recording or written transcript of the stories that inspired the artist’s work. Using light, sound, play and art paired with the tradition of storytelling, Waawaateg immerses visitors in a thought-provoking experience at their own pace, the BIA noted.

Several Ontario-based Indigenous artists and storytellers have been commissioned for this installation, including Alyssa Bardy, Dakota Ward, Duncan Pheasant, Jamaica Cass, Jaylene Cardinal, Jennifer McGratton, Lindsay Brant, and Rick Revelle. The Northern Light installation is produced by Visual Menace, a local company that also owns Improbable Escapes, the BIA shared.

“Waawaateg has been a collaboration of many people passionate about community building, education, and the deep history of the Indigenous people. We encourage everyone to come to Confederation Park for the Waawaateg opening ceremony March 10th at 6:30 p.m. There will be live music, and a gathering of artists, storytellers, and community leaders as Waawaateg is unveiled,” stated Marijo Cuerrier, Executive Director of Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Area. “Fried bread, bannock, and Three Sisters soup will be served after [the] opening ceremony.”

Those who cannot attend the opening ceremonies can visit the installation until Friday, Mar. 31, 2023. For more information visit: https://downtownkingston.ca/waawaateg.

“This project was inspired by conversations between members of the local Indigenous community, allies, and the Downtown Kingston BIA about the creation of an Indigenous-inspired winter installation,” the BIA stated. “The focus of the project is to work towards deeper understanding by engaging in relationships and teaching together through Indigenous storytelling and art to engage the community while offering a space for Indigenous people to see themselves reflected in an urban setting.”

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