Global Savages ICAF (Rotterdam)
After presenting The Global Savages at the International Community Arts Festival (ICAF) back in 2011 to a sold out 500 member audience inside the Zuidplein Theatre, Debajehmujig-Storytellers was invited to return to the prestigious festival (which takes place once every three years). The festival showcases Community Arts Projects and Artists from every continent on the globe. The Global Savages were there once again as ambassadors of not only Canada but also of the Anishnaabek Nation.
Since our first presentation of the Global Savages at ICAF in 2011, we have made great strides in the development of this presentation and we have gone back to a style that honours our traditional storytelling roots. This means that this time around The Global Savages would be presented a little differently, outside, around a fire and under an open sky, as opposed to inside under the theatre lights and on a stage. The over all experience of The Global Savages has also evolved from simply a performance into a community engagement “initiative” This means that we were able to go out into the communities of
Rotterdam two weeks in advance of the presentation to meet with different community groups and to learn about the city in which we are guests. It is important for us as storytellers to know where we are and who we are telling the story to, in order to adapt our story to make sense in the “here and now”.
We went into communities like Oud Westen (The Old West), Oud Noord (Old North), the Fenix Food Factory, (an old warehouse being converted into a market), and met with school groups in character and taught them a tradition round dance, and we met with an elder who had survived the May 14th 1940 bombing of Rotterdam by the German Nazi's and had tea and listened to her story. We had all these, and many more experiences during our two week visit in order to to learn about the community and to listen to the stories they had to share with us, we learned how they use space and how they grow their gardens in a country that has very limited space. It was a bizarre experience at times particularly learning that, because of this limited space the country actually creates more land by taking sand from the bottom of the ocean and moving it until “man-made” islands are created where they can build on top of, and that every tree in the country is planted no tree is unaccounted for. We also learned that there is such a thing as a “nature store” where you can go to buy nature and we learned the term “Man-made nature” hmmm?
When it came time to perform, the presentation was held outside on the Fenix Food Factory lot on Rotterdam's Wilhelmina Pier and ironically straight across from the building known today as “Hotel New York” which was an important departure point for hundreds of thousands of Europeans immigrating to the United States.
One of the biggest and most rewarding differences for this presentation was the incorporation of elder, Debajehmujig board member and long time political activist for Anishnaabek women's rights in Canada Ms. Jeannette Corbiere Lavall into the production. Jeanette took on the role of Nookimis and sat quietly, actively listening to the story unfold. Her presence brought an element to the performance that could not have been known until we did it. Now it seems we can not do this performance without her. Having her on the trip brought a sense of balance to the group both on stage and off. on the first day of arrival we usually do a sunrise walk/ceremony, the difference this time was that we had Jeanette present to open the ceremony and pray in our own language. Something we have not been able to do prior as none of the rest of the group is fluent. The group had decided that on future trips that they will all take Anishnaabemowin lessons from Jeannette at the beginning of each day. Esnaa nishin! Anishnaabemdaa etaa!
Although there were many highlights on the trip a major highlight was the opportunity to take a day trip to the Hague, where many global leaders were gathered for the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit. Although security presence was high, the group managed to get close enough to the gathering and found a nice clearing in a wooded area where they performed a simple ceremony in regards that the leaders gathered would have good discussion and make good decisions as Nuclear security affects us all.
The Global Savages would like to thank Eugene van Erven, Anamaria Cruz, Roos Muis, all the staff at Theater Zuidplein and all the loving and warm people of Rotterdam that invited us into their lives and made this experience a once in a lifetime event. Chi Miigwetch.