Culture takes centre stage at Arts In Motion Chautauqua
Crafts, entertainment take centre stage at Arts In Motion Chautauqua Festival in Summerside
A dancer closes his eyes and rhythmically shifts his feet to the beat of a pounding drum.
The Mi’kmaq Artists of Lennox Island call it the, “Wind Song.” They sing, quiet at first but picking up the pace, then soft and out of breath.
“There’s no end to it, so it’s like the wind,” explained Julie Pellissier-Lush, one of the singers. “It’s an historic song.” The thump of a big drum accompanies the chant, and it vibrates through the hands, arms and chest.
“Usually, the men are drumming because women have a close grounded nature to Mother Earth – they give birth, they have their Moon Time, we call it, and men don’t have that connection,” said Talon Simon, from Moncton N.B., one of the Mi’kmaq dancers dressed as an eagle.
The pounding of the drum is sacred because it represents the heart beating.
“Men beat closed drums because the power remains inside, whereas women can beat open drums like snares, so the power can run through,” Simon added.
“I believe a Cree grandmother brought the drum from the West to the Mi’kmaq people across Canada, and the Turtle Island. He continued, “And there was great peace between the two people, so eventually we incorporated the musical instrument into our culture.”
Songs performed by the artists included the Circle of Life, a chant given from an elder in Cape Breton and transcribed in 1610, as well as chants that had dancers mimic animals and swoop like eagles, and courtship dancers.
Marlene Campbell, the cultural programming coordinator of Wyatt Heritage Properties Inc. said it’s been the best year for the event.
“The first three days consisted of being down on Water Street (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) where we had our artist stands and officials performing from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30p.m., while interacting with the public and talking about their work. It’s been probably the best year ever for that.”
Campbell said, “And the next three days of the Chautauqua aspect of the festival, we moved to our own grounds at Wyatt Heritage Properties Inc. And each of those three days it’s been none-stop entertainment.”
The festival was spearheaded by the 150th anniversary of the two historic Wyatt Heritage Properties, on the corner of Granville and Prince Streets. The Lefurgey Cultural Centre and the Wyatt historic house were both constructed in 1867.
The cultural celebration included 12 featured artists demonstrating their craft, as well as musical entertainment throughout Saturday.
“It’s our fourth year of doing Chautauqua, so Summerside can experience for free or very low cost the best in our culture,” concluded Campbell.
The festival is kindly funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage, the government of P.E.I., the City of Summerside, Atlantic Lottery, La Belle Alliance, and the Journal Pioneer.
Stéphanie Bélanger, an aerial silk acrobat from the Carnaval en Promenade, performs incredible stunts that leave the audience breathless.
Julie Pellissier-Lush, from Lennox Island, performs a traditional Mi’kmaq dance while swooping and mimicking an eagle.
Lynne Provance weaves beautiful baskets. “My Girl Scout troop taught us how to make these around five or six years ago,” she said. Provance limits the colours of her baskets to red, representing the fauna, and green to represent the flora around us. She also creates original stain glass windows, quilting, and jewelry.
Talon Simon, from Moncton N.B., performs the Mi’kmaq Wind Dance at the Arts In Motion Chautauqua festival in Summerside.