Canada's artists lead the country's indigenous renaissance


FRANCE 24's culture show takes you to Canada to meet some of the artists leading the country's indigenous renaissance. The UN has declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages, in a bid to raise awareness of the consequences of the endangerment of indigenous languages around the world. We visit a country reclaiming its indigenous heritage.


Some 1.6 million people out of Canada’s 37-million population are indigenous. Among them, one in six speak an indigenous language – many of them like Cree, Inuktitut and Ojibway are on the verge of extinction, largely because of what happened in Canada’s colonial past. Canadian authorities sought to subjugate and effectively erase indigenous cultures. Between 1879 and 1996, around 150,000 First Nations children were removed from their families and placed in residential schools designed to make them forget their language and culture, something that until recently was absent from the history books.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation commission issued a report declaring what happened to be a Cultural Genocide and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologised for Canada's treatment of indigenous peoples. Since then, whether you call it a rebirth, a renaissance or a re-awakening, artists, singers and filmmakers are leading the de-colonisation movement bringing Canada closer to a reconciliation with its past.

Eve Jackson meets the artists leading the movement:

Opera tenor Jeremy Dutcher, the winner of the country’s biggest music prize. He sings in Wolastoqey – just one of Canada’s 70 indigenous languages. With an international following, Jeremy is said to be leading this indigenous renaissance by reclaiming his heritage and making more space in the world for indigenous artists.

Alanis Obomsawin, one of the most acclaimed indigenous directors in the world. Her whole career has been an act of de-colonisation. At 87 years old, she has now made more than 50 films.  

Algonquin-French contemporary artist and filmmaker Caroline Monnet. There are many dark subjects concerning indigenous communities: residential schools, high suicide rates among young people and the many missing and murdered indigenous women. Through her sculpture, installations and films, Caroline Monnet confronts these traumas, but she wants to change the narrative and break the cycle of victimisation.

After hundreds of years of colonialisation, in this programme we discover that despite the fact that the painful past is still very present in Canada, the artists are taking control of telling their own stories, in their own words and languages, to help heal the wounds of the past, make space in the present and create a new dialogue for tomorrow.

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