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 and 5, 2021. Tickets are available on their website.
“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.
Collie is an Indigenous artist from the The’wá:lí (Soowahlie) First Nation with African and settler ancestry.
Collie says she actually started out wanting to become a dentist. As she was pursuing her degree, Collie was also working with 3 Crows Productions, an Indigenous educational storytelling group dedicated to raising awareness about Residential Schools and the Intergenerational Impacts they have had on Indigenous families and communities. Together, they share their own experiences in schools and community spaces to educate on these complex issues.
“When we would share stories of how residential schools have impacted our team’s lives, I saw a lot of youth that felt exactly the same way I did in school,” says Collie.
She says many Indigenous youth either felt ashamed of being Indigenous because they felt like they had to conform to this White assimilated societal standard or they had no idea how to connect to their ancestral roots, she noticed.
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 proper education, resources and understanding in the B.C. education system,” she says.
“Although youth today aren’t going to residential schools, they might still feel the intergenerational impact of these schools from their family members,” says Collie.
The amount of cultural loss she and her family have suffered hit her hardest when she was at a vigil for the children found in unmarked graves and people started singing a Coast Salish song to honour them, 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,” Collie explains.
Going on her own reclamation 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 many other really amazing folks,” says Collie.
Zee Zee Theatre reached out to Collie after hearing about the work they were doing through fellow friend and now Virtual Humanity curator, Deb Williams. After witnessing some of 3 Crows Productions filmmaking projects, including their promotional video called “Orange Shirt Day is Everyday” they were welcomed to be a part of Virtual Humanity – a pivot from their previous project, Human Library.
As a curator for the event, Collie ensured a diverse representation of Indigeneity by including Afro-Indigenous, Black and Indigenous folks in the Two-Spirit, Inidiqueer 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; I want to do right by both my Indigenous and African ancestors that came before me, and I feel this project is allowing me to do that,” 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 needs, adds Collie.
“You get to hear stories, but then you also get to have a bit of interaction with the storytellers. 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 and needed right now,” she says.
For more information, please visit https://zeezeetheatre.ca/production/virtual-humanity-two-spirit-indigiqueer-futures/
This article has been updated