Virtual Humanity: an Indigiqueer online experience

During this pandemic, people have had to stick to their own little bubbles, but deep-rooted issues of colonization may have been causing people to do this for much longer than they realize. With their online event, Virtual Humanity, which focuses on the Two Spirit & Indigiqueer experience, Zee Zee Theatre Company is aiming for people to venture outside their circles.

The event invites participants to break down their ideas of difference in a 20-minute discussion with a ‘Virtual Human.’ Virtual Humanity will take place Nov. 27, 28 and Dec. 4, 2021. Tickets are available on their website.

Sharing stories

“I think having moments and opportunities like this is where you get to really understand someone on a more vulnerable and intimate level,” says Alysha Collie, one of the curators of Virtual Humanity.

An Afro-Indigenous artist, educational storyteller and filmmaker, Collie’s grandmother is African and her grandfather is Indigenous from the The’wá:lí (Soowahlie) First Nation.

Alysha Collie, one of the curators for Virtual Humanity. | Photo by 3 Cows Production

Collie started out wanting to become a dentist. As she was pursuing her degree, she was also working with 3 Crows Production where she, her partner Dallas Yellowfly and two elders/survivors created presentations for schools about their Indigenous experience.

“When we would share stories of how residential schools have impacted the team’s lives, I saw a lot of youth that felt exactly the same way I did in school,” she says.

Collie shares that the kids either felt ashamed of being Indigenous because they felt like they had to conform to this White assimilated standard or they had no idea how to connect to their roots.

Wanting to share stories about her life that youth could relate with and feel supported to share their own stories became very important to Collie.

“I realized that my story of how I came to have a stereotyped White-washed and appropriated Indigenous identity as a youth was due to the lack of resources and understanding in the B.C. education system,” she says.

Reclaiming her journey

“Although youth today aren’t going to residential schools, they might still feel the intergenerational impact of residential schools from their family members,” Collie explains..

The amount of cultural loss she and her family have suffered hit her when she was at a vigil for the children found in unmarked graves and people started singing a Coast Salish song, but she didn’t know the lyrics.

“What I realized in that moment was that I had been denied an ancestral birthright; I should have known these songs, they should have been passed down in my family, but I didn’t and that’s because what residential schools intended to do worked on my family,” she says.

Going on her own reconnection journey for herself and family is what inspired her to go into the art realm.

Real, raw, authentic

“I think everyone is going to take something different away from this and all the storytellers have diverse stories; there are burlesque dancers, beadwork artists and some other really amazing folks,” says Collie.

Zee Zee Theatre Company reached out to her after seeing the work 3 Crows Production was putting out, including a promotional video called Orange Shirt Day is Everyday, and asked if they wanted to be a part of Virtual Humanity, a pivot from their previous project, Human Library.

As a curator for the event, Collie made sure to have representation including Afro-Indigenous, Black and Indigenous folks in the Two-Spirit and LGBTQ2SI+ community.

“These voices have historically been severely underrepresented, especially in public spaces. Giving our storytellers a platform to speak out in the community and to pay them adequately for their time and their stories is really important to me,” she says.

Virtual Humanity is an accessible event, with different pay scales and online, so people can watch from the comfort of their home, especially if they have any sensory issues, Collie adds.

“You get to hear stories, but then you also get to have a bit of interaction with the storytellers,” she says. “You can ask them questions, they can ask you questions, you can have a really honest vulnerable conversation and I think that’s really beautiful.”

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