Through this position, I have been exposed to many different programs, non-for-profits, and events devoted exclusively to the promotion of culture within Saskatchewan. These initiatives set out to not only support the diversity of our province - but celebrate it. Just this month, my friends at The Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport (PCS) connected me with the volunteer-driven nonprofit, Sask Culture, who acted as my liaison to Culture Days - an annual celebration of arts and culture hosted across the nation. While that is a mouthful, it demonstrates that this blog is the product of the marriage between organizations, communities and volunteers that collaborate over one mutual goal: to honour the cultural melting-pot that is Saskatchewan.
At the end of each September, millions of people attend thousands of participatory arts and culture events throughout Canada that are all under the greater umbrella of Culture Days. This is made possible through the joint efforts of The Culture Days national office, provincial partners (like SaskCulture) and a vast network of grassroots organizations and volunteers. This year marked the 10th Anniversary of this web of events and Saskatchewan has been a devoted participant since the very beginning. The fun isn’t limited to just the major city centers either. Hosting communities from Creighton to Melfort to Lloydminister have been members of the Culture Day family since 2010.
The individual events put on through Culture Days mirror the very cultures they showcase in that there's a wide array of diverse activities. These activities have included needle felting, print-making, plein air painting, mandolin lessons, Metis jigging and much more. Not only does the Culture Days mandate set out to include migrating cultures, but it showcases practices of Canada’s original inhabitants as well. Saskatchewan, in particular, has used Culture Days as a vehicle to practice reconciliation through creative and immersive mediums. I experienced this first hand when I, along with some friends from PCS and former wanderer Andrew Hiltz, competed in the Annual Tipi Raising Competition at the U of R.
Despite being taught this intricate practice numerous times throughout my travels this year, I suppose I never considered that it may one day be put to the test...and timed at that. We didn’t quite make the time restrictions and certainly didn't take home a trophy. Even so, we had a blast participating in this competitive spin on an important exercise. Other reconciliation-based events were held in Shaunavon, Fort Carleton Provincial Park, Langenburg and Creighton.
Keeping within theme I also attended the Royal Saskatchewan Museum’s screening of Ahkâmêyimo Nitânis (Keep My Daughter Going). This short documentary feature is the passion project of Cree filmmaker Candy Fox, who was born in Piapot First Nation, Saskatchewan. The narrative is told through the lens of a young couple who strive to maintain traditional kinship models within their family despite opposing colonial oppression. More specifically, it showcases the dreams that a new generation of Indigenous parents have for their children. Following the film, there was a group talk-back that touched on the film's key ideas of reconciliation and residential education. There was also tea and bannock to follow. This event was purposefully scheduled to coordinate with Orange Shirt Day and it was lovely to see a sea of orange fill the RSM auditorium.
Culture Days has also joined forces with Nuit Blanche which fell on the same weekend. Nuit Blanche, which translates as White Night, is an international all-night arts festival that’s been held all around the world since 1990. I myself have routinely attended Toronto’s Nuit Blanche festivities every year for the better half of a decade. I’m very excited that Saskatchewan has jumped on this creative bandwagon and I can't wait to see it flourish as the years progress.
On brand with Saskatchewan’s trademark unpredictable weather, the White Night took a literal approach as September 29th marked this year's first snowfall. Even so, the show went on and stunning installations were erected throughout Victoria Park and City Square Plaza in Regina. Of course, I was drawn towards one of the indoor activities.
Le Temps d'une Soupe which means “While Having Soup” is an immersive installation by Montreal artist collective, ASTA, and Regina’s Common Weal Community Arts. This event matches complete strangers who are then assigned thought-provoking conversation prompts to be shared over bowls of soup. It was a really interesting exercise in the importance of listening to views outside of your immediate social circle.
If you missed out on Culture Days and Nuit Blanche, don’t fret! That’s the beauty of annual events. Rain or shine, a Culture Days event will likely be hosted in a community near you during the last weekend of September. Immersing yourself in multi-culturalism doesn’t have to be a scheduled practice either. Follow Sask Culture to stay up to date on activities happening throughout the year and Culture Days Saskatchewan for events in 2020.
Sask Culture: https://www.saskculture.ca/
Culture Days: https://culturedays.ca