Indigenous culture shines at Montréal First Peoples festival

Daniel J. Rowe

From August 6 to 14 the Place des Festivals in the heart of Montréal will resound with drum and culture as the Montréal First Peoples festival’s 29th edition begins, featuring an incredible and eclectic blend of local and international Indigenous culture, music, film, food and art day and night. The complete schedule is promised by July 16, though key headliners have already been announced.

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International film festival

Each year, the festival brings international and domestic Indigenous film premieres. This year, the festival’s film portion will open with Santiago Bertolini’s Mon cri saura parler. Film screenings will continue in Montréal and Kahnawà:ke until August 14. Expect documentaries, short and feature length films from amateur filmmakers to established masters.

One such celebration of up-and-coming filmmakers happens yearly at Kahnawà:ke’s Eastern Connection Film Festival, featuring a night of Indigenous short films across the St. Lawrence River.

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Music in the air

The main stage at the Place des Festivals features a steady line up of performers over the eight days. The grand concert this year will feature Mongolian throat singing with Inuit katajaq directed by composer Katia Makdissi-Warren. Past festivals have seen DJs, folk rock, industrial and traditional music. Drum groups are a staple with the Buffalo Hat Singers and Northern Voice already announced for this year.

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Art and food to discover

The Place des Festivals will be transformed, as it is every year, with large colourful installations featuring in the centre of the plaza. Indigenous artists and artisans are set up day and night, giving free craft demonstrations and performances. Hoop dancers, soap stone carvers and Indigenous print makers have given visitors a taste of their authentic craft in past years.

La Guilde will present Atikamekw artist Melky Ottawa’s NEHIROWISIDIGITAL on July 25 in conjunction with the festival, and the Centre international d’art contemporain de Montréal will present a show on Two-Spirit at various venues celebrating the Indigenous gay community.

Indigenous food features food cart style throughout the week with wild berry kombucha, elk hot dogs and bison sandwiches featuring at past festivals.

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Masters now playing

For those who can’t wait until August for Indigenous art and film, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is showcasing a collection of legendary Waban-Aki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin’s prints for the first time. Alanis Obomsawin, Printmaker showcases Obomsawin’s impressive etching and painting talent along with 12 baskets woven by artists from the Odanak community.

The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal’s Facing the Monumental exhibition, celebrating the 30-year work of Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore, from the Lac Seul First Nation, runs to October 6. It is the largest exhibition of the multidisciplinary master’s work to date and includes sculptures, installations, photography and videos.

Daniel J. Rowe

Daniel J. Rowe, journalist

Daniel J. Rowe is a West Coast transplant that wound up in Montréal via Japan and became an award-winning journalist and photographer working out of the Kanien’kehá:ka community of Kahnawà:ke. He’s an admitted culture addict, sports fanatic in the worst way and food and drink snob, though he’ll eat a hot dog and enjoy it on those nights that hot dogs are all that’s needed. The best view in life for him is on a bicycle at high speeds, and he will point it out if you use the adjective everyday incorrectly.

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