The Scream shows Indigenous children being taken away from their families by the Catholic church. (Courtesy of Kent Monkman)
qiksaaktuq (grief) was premiered last night in toronto, as first concert closer of the toronto symphony new music festival. as part of the whole 150 years anniversary of canada, there are some real fun celebrations planned across the country, and i was happy to receive my parks canada pass, and to attend various projects, including this series of new commissions.
and while we cut the cheery white and red coloured cake, and me, who will be travelling with the brand new passport this summer, i am aware of what canada is made out of-
which is more than what we bargain for.
when tagaq won polaris prize in 2014, i did overhear some dudes attributing her heritage for 'making the list' in kensington market hipster bar. i poured my beer on their shoes and left.
i wasnt surprised, as, well, kensington market, as we all love it for what it is, has not been THAT place for class-less, bohemian sanctuary for a long time. it's a theme park for many of us, who wishes to be briefly immersed (perhaps a wet toe in the ocean?), without taking any real risks to explore social marginalia.
does this look like work without merit?
seeing duncan at school is always refreshing to me. classical music world can feel so safe and established at times, especially in school setting. it is nice to see someone being herself, fearless, with true confidence, doing her thing. yep, no more, no less. doing her thing. some people forget that school is also for 'trying it out,' 'growth and exploration' and that bartok and stravinsky is no longer out of the box. i love the old beauties, of course, they are beautiful,
so i went down to the show, excited. almost sold-out hall. how refreshing. then came the last piece for the evening.
jean martin wrote this piece- grief.
the vulnerable,violent, beautiful and emptiness of loss came about. the five stages of greif: denial, anger, baraining, depression and acceptance.
what have we lost? who lost? who is to lose?
i have seen a few people who has lost themselves, especially doing the refugee/immigration translation work. i have seen people who are so broken that they are at the absolute edge of themselves. they got out of oppression, dragged themselves across continents and oceans, and now, at the door to canada (as we try to shut out who does not meet our own rich criteria- yes, we do send back refugees, deny applications and hold them in immigration jail in canada), they no longer have the energy to bargain. they mix that despair with the inevitability, often ready to sign to withdraw their claims and go back to their certain deaths. often, they are living in acceptance of anger and depression, for how long, i do not know.
the recent exhibition at the university arts centre, kent monkman's shame and prejudice,
perhaps wasnt exactly the wall-hanger that we all hoped to see, along with our beautiful park passes and artistic celebration - the losses.
they are still real. as so many of our beautiful canadian residents- yes, all citizens, immigrants and visitors and transients, tends to look at our own beautiful images, it is true that these losses still ring deeply in our community. we are the ones who decided to become deaf.
was qiksaaktuq a beautiful work?
and was it supposed to be beautiful? for whom?
who are we to be so certain that we are no longer continuing our crushing march of colonialism? who are we to be so proud that we are 'open' to others? are we?
tagaq's performance was uncomfortable and therefore super relevant to our current time- the non-G20s are exploited, man-organized famines starve the have-nots, we have alternative facts and mourn for losses in paris while drowned migrants and refugees are well, simply inconvenient.
as tagaq herself was slammed for the sealskin coat photo incident, are we, the average canadians, while we eat and drink the lives of the lesser-world citizens, as seal hunt is absolutely barbaric and therefore, cleansed by the western colonialists?
she totally owned that stage yesterday. it was smart music, sure. it was impacting.
it was real. raw.
and so here we are.
with our indigenous sisters and friends four times more likely to be murdered, with the desperate people knocking on our nation's door being turned way, as five stages of grieving leads to acceptance, which does not equate to recovery, replacement or amnesia.
of ourselves, our comrades- the marginalized people- women, minorities of all kinds, who has been stepped on, robbed and raped, and are forced to live on in shell of themselves, as they grieve as to live.