Mikw Chiyâm Art Showcase

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On June 24, the MikwChiyam Arts Festival was held in Chisasibi. This event was the first-ever end-of-year gathering of all the students enrolled in the MikwChiyam Arts Concentration Program in Eeyou Istchee. Students from Mistissini and Waskaganish traveled to the James Bay Eeyou School in Chisasibi to display some of the artwork they created during the year.

I was one of those students who traveled to Chisasibi. My name is Trey Turner. On the afternoon of June 23, we traveled via coach from Mistissini to Chisasibi, a near 12-hour ride with no WiFi and one pit stop at the halfway point. Luckily, the chaperones packed snacks. Once we made it to the school, the artists-in-residence who were our teachers throughout the year greeted us. It was heart-warming to see them again, as most of us missed being in the art room with them. When the hugging party was over, they brought us to the Agora where we gathered our luggage and sat down. At this point, it was after 6 pm. Everyone, except the lucky ones from Chisasibi, had traveled many hours and were tired and hungry.

Pizza, popcorn and a delicious raspberry fizzy drink were served as supper. I had three slices and too much popcorn. After everyone had finished eating, music producer David Hodges hooked up a microphone and began announcing the festival and sleeping plans for the students. The students had free time until 11 pm, and I spent that time fiddling with musical instruments in Chisasibi’s art room and watching Grease. At 11 pm, students who had a place to sleep in Chisasibi left the school, while the others (including me) were sent upstairs to a recreational room where we were to sleep on gym mats and mattresses we had packed. As we slept, people were setting up equipment for the festival. I slept poorly on a down-feather blanket on a gym mat.

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The rooster cock-a-doodle-dooed at 9 am. Our chaperones played the ukulele and sung us out of our slumber. We were summoned back down to the Agora where bagels and croissants with cream cheese and yogurt parfaits were served as breakfast. Once we had stuffed our faces, David announced the plan for the day. Students, artists and teachers were to set up the artwork for the public to see by noon. It seemed difficult at first, but then someone had the idea of placing two tables against each other, creating a double-sided easel display for paintings and sculptures. The works were placed on the walls of the Agora, the double-sided tables, and then lockers once we ran out of space.

Multimedia film was displayed on a projector beside the stage and all live performances took place on the stage. I printed out 20 pieces of paper in the teacher’s lounge and cut-and-pasted them all to a poster. These papers constituted Black Ice, a short story I wrote earlier this year. I taped the poster to the lockers for anyone who had the time to read.

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Once all the students, artists and teachers finished perusing the makeshift gallery, lunch was served in the school kitchen. After lunch, artists and teachers set up “making” stations for printmaking, collage, a photo booth and a mural for two hours. At 3 pm, the doors were opened to the public, the ribbon was cut, and the MikwChiyam Arts Festival was officially underway. People came in and saw the artwork that students from three separate schools had worked on during the school year. It was a wonderful experience. For three hours, I participated in the printmaking station, where I made my own print, and the mural station, where I pasted together an outer space landscape. The festival ended at 6 pm. The public left and everyone cleaned up and took a break.

A BBQ was happening outside and everyone was served hamburgers, an odd onion salad and flattened pretzels. Again, I fiddled around with musical instruments for an hour. At 8 pm, the doors to the school were opened again to the public not for the art show, but for the music show that was happening until 11 pm. Loads of people attended this event and for good reason. Performers included Mariame, winner of the Best Pop Album Award from the Indigenous Music Awards; Vangalo, a rising local DJ who makes sick mash-ups; The NorthStars, the Nemaska rap trio who spit bars; and Heart of the Land, a traditional drum group who cause heart palpitations but in a good way.<

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Besides these musical acts, several MikwChiyam students and teachers also took to the stage. One performed original poetry, another rapped Alphabet Aerobics by Blackalicious, two teachers played original music, and a student/artist duo sang Adele’s Hello. Midway through the event, the chairs in the front were pushed aside to make room for dancing. And dance they did.

Mariame’s final song marked the end of the event and people began to leave. Before many left, however, they conversed with the artists. Then students were sent to bed, but not before hanging out at the bonfire outside and playing a massive game of “Cards Against Humanity”. We hit the hay pretty late that night, around 1-2 am – we kept talking over games of Crazy Eights in the rec room. I set up my “bed” on a single reclining sofa. That night I slept really well.

At 8 am the next day, the Waskaganish and Mistissini visitors had to be shaken-up for breakfast. We ate bacon, pancakes, scrambled eggs and toast in preparation for the long drive home. Outside by the coach, the 20-plus of us stood for a picture. We hugged the artists-in-residence and our new friends goodbye. We were all overtaken with sadness as we drove out of Chisasibi.

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The  MikwChiyam Arts Festival was a very notable and fun experience, one that we, the  MikwChiyam team, have all been looking forward to all year. Did it deliver?

Yes! Yes, it did!

Trey Turner is a 15-year-old student at Voyageur Memorial School in Mistissini.

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