Skyborn: a land reclamation odyssey

Quelemia Sparrow in Skyborn. | Photo by Emily Cooper

The Cultch and PuSh International Performing Arts Festival present Skyborn: A Land Reclamation Odyssey, a world premiere by Musqueam playwright and performer Quelemia Sparrow. Produced by the Savage Society, performances will be held at the Historic Theatre, Jan. 23–Feb 1 and at the Gateway Theatre Studio B, in Richmond, March 19–28.

The 90-minute long, no intermission, presentation is part of the Cultch Fourth Annual Femme Series; a series of shows and events centered on presenting Indigenous women’s voices and personal journeys.

“The show is an artistic ceremony that bears witness and connects us to our ancestors who are skyborn” explains Sparrow:“It is a process that unites us to our history and our land. It also the connection to my spirituality, it is part of my journey, so in some sense, it is my very personal story.”

Land reclamation

Sparrow explains that Skyborn is also the story of land reclamation, a process that strives to return neglected indigenous lands to their ecological beauty and prosperity. In Canada, land reclamation efforts are mostly directed at land disturbed by natural resource development, including mining, oil, and gas operations.

“The idea of reclamation is to honor the traditions of the First People of this territory and to learn and respect their lands” adds Kim Senklip Harvey, Fire Creator and director, “So the reclamation idea is for the audience to come and bear witness with respect and humility. It is also the act of refusing colonialism and imperialism. One example being the renaming of the places where our Ancestors have lived thousands of years ago.”

Sparrow is proud of the experience they have created for the audience. They have invited an honorary witness chosen to represent the spectators and to guide them through the process of recalling, retaining and remembering what happened during the artistic ceremony, as Indigenous People rely on their oral history to pass on their stories and personal journey to the next generations.

“It is really important to enter Canadian Indigenous Theatre with great humility,” continues Harvey, “ Skyborn is more than a show and tell. As a proud Syilx Nations woman myself, I’m part of this story and invite all to live the Syilx ontology in harmony and balance with the earth.”

Hy’cyp’ca, Wáy

Hy’cyp’ca, Wáy, an artistic ceremony that honors a Musqueam soul canoe journey. A multifaceted ancestral ritual to retrieve a lost soul when there is a sickness,” says Harvey “There is a sickness between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. We need you here in order for us to heal the bond between us, our culture and land. Our Elders teach us that we are the land. So to know us, you must know the stories that flow from these waters, the spirits that grow from the forest floors and the histories that burn from the sky.

This artistic ceremony is an offer for us to be in a knowledge sharing relationship, to share the Ancestral teachings that live with the Musqueam and Sto:lo peoples. This knowledge comes from a time before trees, a time when giant beings roamed the Earth. Quelemia, is a name that pre-dates the human race, it opens up portals into our cosmos and this story inducts us into Salish

Sparrow explains that the canoe carrying a sick soul is not just a metaphor or a symbolic idea.“I actually rode the spirit canoe journey,” she says. “It is a ritual held with a medicine healer who assisted me to retrieve my soul and become once again a whole person. It is a full and complete

Skyborn tells us we are all born from a river of stars.

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