Indigeneity in the Contemporary World: Politics, Performance, Belonging

Events Archive

Symposium: Recasting Commodity and Spectacle in the Indigenous Americas

Senate House, University of London, 22-23 November 2012

This international symposium, convened by Charlotte Gleghorn and Helen Gilbert, and organised in partnership with the Institute for the Study of the Americas (ISA), examined how artists and communities negotiate and challenge the commodification, exoticisation and spectacularisation of Indigenous performance. Highly interdisciplinary in nature, the event brought together 45 researchers, with a large contingent from overseas, and featured twenty papers from a range of disciplines, including theatre studies, music, film studies, anthropology, art history, Native and Indigenous studies, history, law, Latin American studies and literary studies.

The symposium elicited a diverse array of responses to the theme, with many discussions considering how enduring stereotypes both distort and influence contemporary Indigenous expression. The restrictive categories to which Indigenous performance is often confined, the insertion of Indigenous difference into market forces, and the responsibility bestowed upon artists to contest dominant scripts of identity and educate wider society, were all recurrent themes during the event. Some of the liveliest presentations emphasised community-led performance encounters, such as competitions and festivals, demonstrating the innovative ways in which performance might destabilise prevailing understandings of spectacle. Keynote Michelle H. Raheja artfully politicised the symposium on the first day with a critique of memorial and holiday practices that degrade First Peoples in the US, notably the tradition of ‘dressing up Native’ for Thanksgiving, with which the symposium coincided. On day two, Gabriela Zamorano’s keynote presentation drew attention to how debate, tension and discussion are often part and parcel of the collective authorship processes behind Indigenous video, and underlined the critique of capitalist networks of consumption offered by members of the Bolivian CEFREC-CAIB. Podcasts of the keynotes are available here:

Michelle H. Raheja: Redfacing Redux: The Afterlife of Native American Images link to
Gabriela Zamorano Villarreal: The Politics of Distribution: Building Audiences for Bolivian Indigenous Films link to

The symposium closed with a presentation by Carlos Gómez, the co-director of Cineminga, a not-for profit film organization based in New York that offers video training and production opportunities for Indigenous communities. Carlos generously presented the collective’s latest video Ñanz (2012), co-produced with a Nasa community in southwestern Colombia, followed by a Q&A. A selection of the symposium papers will be published in a forthcoming book with the same name, in autumn 2013, edited by Helen Gilbert and Charlotte Gleghorn, and commissioned by the School of Advanced Study, University of London.


Passengerfilms night in central London

12 November 2012, Roxy Bar and Screen, Borough, London.

In November 2012, Passengerfilms presented a night devoted to the history and future of Indigenous and ethnographic film, guest-curated by Charlotte Gleghorn from the Indigeneity Team. This film club produces monthly events, providing an opportunity to screen a range of rare films and videos in the heart of London. All of the productions screened shared a concern with territory and landscape, their cultural significance and physical materiality. The opener for the evening was Nanook of the North (1922), Robert Flaherty’s famous silent film, considered by many to be the first feature-length documentary. Two recent videos from Latin America complemented the feature, Já Me Transformei Em Imagem [I've already become an image] (Zezinho Yube, Video in the Villages, Brazil, 2008) and Mu Drua [Mi Tierra/My Land] (Colombia, 2011), both Indigenous-authored shorts offering fresh perspectives on their communities’ histories, territories and forms of knowledge. Já Me Transformei Em Imagem reappropriates the ethnographic archive to recount the Hunikuis’ story of loss and renewal as it unfolds through shared experiences on screen. Mu Drua poetically tells the story of how the Embera director Mileidy Orozco Domicó, displaced as a young child from her village in Antioquia, reencounters her family, land and environment.

The evening’s screenings were interspersed with commentary from Felix Driver (Royal Holloway, University of London), Michelle H. Raheja (University of California-Riverside), and Charlotte Gleghorn (Indigeneity Project). Felix discussed the uses of film in the visual culture of exploration, sharing clips from Climbing Mount Everest (1922) and other archival footage. Michelle elucidated the complex dynamics surrounding the production of Nanook and surveyed recent Indigenous media coming from the Arctic region. Charlotte outlined her own research on Indigenous video from Latin America, drawing attention to how Indigenous videomakers commonly embed media representations within broader political struggles that strive to fortify Indigenous resistance to cultural homogenisation.

More public film events are planned as part of the Indigeneity Project’s upcoming performance-based exhibition, Ecocentrix: Indigenous Arts, Sustainable Acts, which will take place from 24 October to 9 November 2013, at the Bargehouse (Southbank) and other venues in London.


Things and Thinking: A Workshop with Rosanna Raymond

27 October 2012, London

The Indigeneity in the Contemporary World Project (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Border Crossings Laboratory presented an exciting creative workshop as a precursor to the 2013 Ecocentrix: Indigenous Arts, Sustainable Acts exhibition and the Origins Festival of First Nations.

Led by renowned Polynesian multimedia and performance artist Rosanna Raymond, the workshop used the Samoan concept of Va to stimulate creative and artistic ideas around indigeneity, migration and intercultural encounter. An approach to space and time, Va, as Raymond explains, ‘is activated by people, binding people and objects together, forming relationships and reciprocal obligations.’ It places things in the contexts of their relationships with people – it allows them to think.

Participants were asked to bring an object with a story to share in response to the themes of indigeneity, migration and intercultural encounter. Together they explored possibilities for giving voice to these objects, and for transferring these voices into performances. The workshop provided a unique chance to help generate artistic ideas and motifs that will influence the exhibition and festival next year.


Talk: ‘Let the Games Begin’: Indigenous Performances and Olympic Opening Ceremonies

Professor Helen Gilbert

Royal Holloway: 7 February 2012

Olympic Games ceremonies provide unique if controversial platforms for indigenous peoples to express their cultural traditions in spectacular pageants prepared for a vast media audience. This lecture charts Aboriginal and Native people’s participation in opening and closing ceremonies in Canada, Australia and the United States since the civil rights movements of the 1960s–70s. The overall aim is to identify the chief pleasures and contradictions embedded in the circulation of such performances as global commodities made available for ‘reading’ across cultures.

While the signal events analysed here are the Sydney, Salt Lake City and Vancouver Olympics, all in the first decade of the twenty-first century, a longer historical view helps to weigh the exoticising effects of spectacle against the argued benefits of national and international visibility. Specific pageants (and protests) are discussed as constituent parts of performance clusters intricately connected to each other across individual host cities and nations. The lecture also probes some of the tensions built into global spectacles constructed out of emphatically local material. Conceptually, this work draws from recent thinking in performance studies and cultural geography to show ways in which political issues are writ large by Olympic pageants, and how they map into narratives of cultural belonging.

A streamed audio broadcast of the lecture is available here.


Symposium: Building Reconciliation and Social Cohesion through Indigenous Festival Performances

University of London in Paris (ULIP): 17-18 November 2011

This two-day symposium, convened by Estelle Castro and Helen Gilbert, brought together approximately 30 scholars, cultural practitioners and activists in order to critically examine attempts to build reconciliation and social cohesion through performance. Contributors were asked to focus specifically on the role of festivals in advancing reconciliation efforts, and on how such events contribute to reimagining communities and rebuilding trust. The topic elicited a diversity of responses and the final programme included contributions from thinkers and practitioners based in Britain, France, New Caledonia, USA, South Africa, Aotearoa/New Zealand and Canada.

The opening day’s programme featured a screening of the documentary Tjibaou, le pardon (Tjibaou, Reconciliation, Gilles Dagneau, 2006), which charted the events leading up to the ceremonial reconciliation between the bereaved families of two major Kanak anticolonial leaders, Jean-Marie Tjibaou and Djubelly Wéa, both of whom were assassinated. The cultural activist and ethical leader, Madame Marie-Claude Tjibaou, accompanied by media administrator, Walles Kotra, attended the screening and contextualised the filming and reconciliation process, providing a focal point for discussions of responsibility in trans-generational healing and memory. The South African theatre academic, Anton Krueger, with dance scholar Zoë Reeve, delivered a jointly researched keynote paper on the final day of the symposium, exploring the nature of spectacle and authenticity within the context of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa.

Aesthetic and cultural forms examined included dance, outdoor performance, community performance, ritual, film, theatre, arts festivals, museum practices and opera. Of particular note were the discussions of forms of embodied performance repertoires to advance fluid interpretations of identity and community, alongside the significance of festival spaces for intercultural encounters. Divergent and interdisciplinary perspectives on community, activism, experimentation and the intercultural ethics of research emerged during the event, especially in reference to the epistemologies used to categorise Indigenous cultural production. Some of the liveliest debates engaged with discourses that frame Indigenous peoples and artists as victims and not agents, leading to a discussion of the revitalisation of cultural forms, such as the Maori whare tapere, as a means to counteract the reception of artistic production uniquely in relation to painful and traumatic phenomena.


Making the Modern Whare Tapere

Te Ahukaramu Charles Royal (University of Auckland)

Royal Holloway: 9 November 2011

Whare tapere were pre-European Maori village ‘houses’ of storytelling, dance, games, music and other entertainments. They fell into disuse in the 19th century and new ways of performing were subsequently developed by Maori communities. Research conducted over the past decade has uncovered an amount of fragmentary information about these traditional ‘houses’. This presentation discussed the ways in which such fragmentary knowledge is being used today to inspire and influence new creations and performances.

Composer and researcher Te Ahukaramu Charles Royal is professor of Indigenous Development in the Faculty of Arts, University of Auckland, and Director of Nga Pae o te Maramatanga, one of New Zealand’s eight centres of research excellence. This centre is dedicated to indigenous development research. Charles is the founder of the modern whare tapere, a cultural theatre/performing arts project first achieved in 2010 within Charles’s tribal community in Aotearoa/New Zealand. He has an abiding interest in the creative potential of indigenous knowledges and has written and/or edited six books, all on some aspect of traditional Maori knowledge and tribal histories and traditions.

A video of this talk is available here.


Reversing the Gaze: An Indigenous Perspective on Museums, Cultural Representation and the Equivocal Digital Remnant

Dr Sandy O’Sullivan (Bachelor Institute of Tertiary Education and ARC Senior Indigenous Research Fellow)

Royal Holloway: 8 November 2011

Sandy O’Sullivan visited the Indigeneity team to share her work on museum approaches to exhibiting Indigenous and First peoples. Sandy is an Aboriginal Australian of the Wiradjuri people and works in the Research Division of Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education (Northern Territory, Australia). Her previous work has explored the dynamics of reclamation of human remains from museums, and she is currently engaged in a large research project funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), which explores how museums of national significance in Australia, the United States of America, and Great Britain engage with and interpret their First Peoples. In particular, Sandy is examining how effective the museums are in integrating their First Peoples’ stories. She is conducting this research in dialogue with two colleagues, Dr Peter Stephenson and Dr Lyn Fasoli, also researchers at Batchelor Institute.

“Re” Thinking: Revitalization, Return, and Reconciliation in Contemporary Indigenous Expressive Culture

Professor Beverley Diamond (Memorial University)

Royal Holloway: 20 September 2011

After a century in which innovation was arguably a defining feature of modernity, what is the political and social weight given to various concepts of repetition and return in defining contemporary Indigenous modernity? The paper begins by asking why the discursive formations of Indigenous studies are arguably dominated by so many “re” words. Drawing on her research with Native American musicians and dancers, the paper also explores Indigenous concepts of history as a “recursive” construct, one that underpins contemporary creative work that defines new forms of community and cross-cultural engagement. It offers a vigilant reading of the most politically charged of the “re” words – relocation and reconciliation – by looking at the way sound was simultaneously a form of oppression and resistance in the residential school system. It comments on the strategies of artists before and during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission era. These strategies both articulate the experience and impact of the residential school system and, at times, contribute to the charged debates surrounding reconciliation and its utopian claims. The study comments on the way “re” thinking might shift approaches to cultural rights in the context of social justice struggles.

Beverley Diamond is the Canada Research Chair in Ethnomusicology at Memorial University of Newfoundland where she established and directs the Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media, and Place (MMaP). Her research has spanned Canadian historiography, feminist ethnomusicology, explorations of the social meaning of music technology, and indigenous studies (Native American and Saami). Among her publications are Native American Music in Eastern North America (OUP, 2008) and Music and Gender (co-edited with Pirkko Moisala; U Illinois P, 2000). She was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2008 and named a Trudeau Fellow in 2009.

Performing for Aboriginal Life and Culture: Aboriginal Theatre (1963) and Ngurrumilmarrmiriyu (2010)

Maryrose Casey (Monash University)

Royal Holloway: 9 December 2010

Over the last decade there has been a shift in the approaches to, and recognition of, historical Aboriginal performance practices for entertainment. The residue of imperial and colonial narratives that reduced the reading of performances recognised as ‘traditional’ to either ritual or oral history has been challenged in a variety of fields including anthropology, tourist studies and to a small extent in performance studies. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries performances under the general heading of Corroborees were the main point of cross-cultural exchange and engagement. These performances embodied a challenge to dominant narratives about ‘native’ people. These same practices continue to inform some streams of contemporary performance. This paper interrogates differences and similarities in the framing and reception of the performative dialogue presented in two such performances in the 1960s and the 2000s. The focus is on two shows nearly fifty years apart from remote communities in the Northern Territory. One, produced and toured in 2010, Ngurrumilmarrmiriyu: Wrong Skin, engages with the impact of systemic social and political racism in a remote community. The other, Aboriginal Theatre, was performed and toured in 1963 in the context of campaigns for land rights and against slave labour working conditions. The two shows were created through Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaborations aiming to share with non-Aboriginal urban audiences the cultural lives of their communities.

Maryrose Casey has published widely on Indigenous Australian theatre and performance focusing on the aspects of cross-cultural communication intrinsic to expressions of indigeneity in public events within a majority settler/migrant society. She is the author of the multi-award winning Creating Frames: Contemporary Indigenous Theatre 1967-97 (UQP 2004) and the forthcoming Telling Stories (ASP 2011), and co-editor of Parading Ourselves (2006) and Transnational Whiteness Matters (2008).

Making Modernity: Indigenous Theatre and Salvage Ethnography

Professor Helen Gilbert

Royal Holloway: 28 October, 2010

Centre for International Theatre and Performance Research, Room 0-10.

Working from the premise that imperialism and modernity have been co-constitutive in most parts of the world, this presentation examines modernist ethnographic practice as reviewed through the lens of recent indigenous performances in postcolonial settler nations. The main focus is on theatrical engagements with ‘salvage ethnography’ and its paternalistic attempts to document indigenous cultures apparently on the verge of extinction. In particular, I analyse performances that re-use (or salvage) early photographic stills to position indigeneity amid the intensifying intercultural contact zones that Western modernity instantiated. As well as engaging with the particular optics of ethnography’s mission to record the life-ways of pre-modern societies, this paper also looks at indigenous performances that have investigated a more macabre sense of the term ‘salvage’, the collection of skeletal remains and preserved body parts – the detritus of empire – for scientific studies and museum display. Drawing on indicative examples from indigenous performances in Canada, Australia and the Pacific, my overall aim is to assess the processes and legacies of salvage practices in (un)making imperial modernity.


Music, Indigeneity & Digital Media Symposium

Royal Holloway: 15-16 April 2010

This symposium, a collaboration between the Royal Holloway music department and the Indigeneity in the Contemporary World team, focused on the role of digital media in the musical practices of indigenous peoples and in musical representations of indigeneity. Key questions included:

  • How significant is digital media to indigenous musical practices?
  • How do musicians balance new technologies with traditional practice?
  • How do digital media offer musical encounters, negotiations and critiques of (post)modernity?
  • Do digital media support or hinder the musical indigenous movement?

Themes explored included the impact of digital media on representation and self- determination through music; musical constructions of place; cultural revival and cultural repatriation; musical production, mediation and consumption; global musical communities and networks; ethnographic methods, representing musical practices and ethics. An edited book arising from this event is being prepared by the organizers, Thomas Hilder, Henry Stobart and Shzr Ee Tan.


Indigenous Communities and Puppetry: Talk and Workshop

Royal Holloway: 29 October 2009

On 29 October the ‘Indigeneity in the Contemporary World’ project, in collaboration with The Puppet Working Group and the Centre for International Theatre and Performance Research, hosted Australian designer, director and puppeteer Sandy McKendrick (Sandpiper Productions) who gave a talk and workshop on indigenous communities and puppetry.

Sandy McKendrick has created, directed and designed performances based on indigenous legends and myths in collaboration with indigenous artists . She has developed performances with and for indigenous communities in East Timor, South Africa and Australia. Her company’s collaborative performances Turtle and the Trade Wind, Cry of the Seadragon and Indigo Sand toured and participated in festivals nationally and internationally.

Photo: Turtle and Trade Winds (2008) by Sandy McKendrick.

The talk and visual presentation covered several puppetry projects that McKendrick has undertaken with indigenous communities in Australia, Zambia and East Timor. It touched on the various projects’ creative development, including the methods and materials used, with a particular focus on puppetry and animation. Following the talk, the workshop concentrated on exploring and playing with different materials and found objects to create simple puppets. Participants designed and constructed their own puppets using various media, allowing time to explore how they can be animated and brought to life. McKendrick showed a variety of construction techniques, looking at how materials impact on character and style of manipulation. Participants worked in pairs or individually to create a puppet.

Indigenous Performance Poet Romaine Moreton

As part of the launch for the Indigeneity in the Contemporary World Project on 18 September at Royal Holloway, Dr Romaine Moreton (Goenpul nation from Minjerribah) gave a 20-minute performance. Romaine is a spoken-word artist and writer of poetry, prose and film with a PhD in philosophy from the University of Western Sydney. Romaine published her first book of poetry, The Callused Stick of Wanting in 1996, and her second anthology, entitled Post Me to the Prime Minister, in 2004. A Walk with Words, a documentary on her life and poetry, won the award for Best International Short Film at the World of Women Film Festival. She has also scripted films, and her first two, Redreaming the Dark and Cherish , were selected for the fringe programme at the Cannes Film Festival. Her third film, The Farm, was screened at the 2009 Message Sticks Festival in Sydney. As an academic, Romaine specialises in Indigenous philosophy and knowledge with a focus on media technology and communication, informed by her experience as a practitioner of film and performance art. She is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Umulliko Higher Education Research Centre of the University of Newcastle (Australia) as well as the National Film and Sound Archive’s 2009 Indigenous Research Fellow.

On Saturday 19 September, also at Royal Holloway, Romaine contributed to discussions on the theme of Heritage and Material Culture and presented her latest short film The Farm as part of the AHRC-funded workshop series on Indigeneity and Performance.

Project Launch and Joseph Roach Lecture

Renowned performance studies scholar Professor Joseph Roach (Yale) gave a public lecture on 18 September to launch the Indigeneity in the Contemporary World project as part of a larger celebration of the Drama department’s new Centre for International Theatre and Performance Research. The Centre fosters research across a range of historical, geographical, political and methodological spheres to advance cutting-edge thinking on specific topics with a distinct international inflection. Areas of special focus include postcolonial, cross-cultural and intercultural performance; indigeneity in transnational contexts; Asian and Australian theatre cultures; international performance training practices; and the impacts of nation, diaspora and globalisation on theatre and performance.

Joseph Roach is Sterling Professor of Theater and English and director of the World Performance Project at Yale University. His award-winning book, Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance (1996), has profoundly influenced thinking about history and memory, not only in performance studies but across the humanities disciplines. His most recent book is It (2007), a study of charismatic celebrity.

Professor Roach’s lecture draws from his extensive research into performance history and contemporary culture in the Circum-Atlantic region:

The Return of the Last of the Pequots: Disappearance as Heritage
As a Native American society decimated by disease and massacred by New Englanders and their Native allies in 1637, the Pequots are often said to have been totally annihilated. In Moby Dick, Melville describes the Pequots as ‘extinct as the ancient Medes’ (Chap XVI), which is why he named the doomed Nantucket whaler of the story ‘Pequod’. But people calling themselves Pequots have been turning up ever since the seventeenth century, including Hannah Ocuish, whose public execution by hanging in New London in 1786 made news because she was 12 years old at the time. Today 785 tribal members claim Mashantucket Pequot identity as indigenous locals. Enjoying the special status of dual sovereignty with the State of Connecticut, they run the Foxwoods Resort Casino, which vies for the title of the largest gaming destination in the world, with 7,400 slot machines and keno drawings every eight minutes. At the same site, they also operate the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center to document their continuous history and celebrate their heritage. But what sort of heritage is founded on periodic erasure? This paper will interpret the experience of the Museum, which was originally designed as a theme-park ‘heritage ride’, as a performance/counter-performance of disappearance.

The launch included brief performances featuring Indigenous Australian poet Romaine Moreton and excerpts of practice-led research being undertaken by staff and postgraduate members of the Department of Drama and Theatre.

A streamed audio broadcast of the lecture is available here.

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Indigeneity And Performance

A workshop series convened by Helen Gilbert (Royal Holloway) and Ian Henderson (Kings College), funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of Great Britain under its ‘Beyond Text: Performances, Sounds, Images, Objects’ programme.

Workshop One: Mobility and Belonging

Institute of Commonwealth Studies: 13 February 2009

Chair: Professor Helen Gilbert

This workshop focused on relationships between mobility and belonging as expressed in, and mediated by, indigenous performance practices. Following Tim Creswell (2006), mobility was conceived as socially produced movement that is intimately connected with the ways in which we encounter people, objects and places, both in real and imaginative terms. Participants discussed indigenous performance as an embodied material practice that rehearses, reproduces and/or revitalises forms of mobility, as well as creating new modes and patterns. It may also express disruptions in social movement and attachments to place brought about by colonisation. Tensions were perceived between indigenous performances of mobility and traditional – if problematic – notions of indigeneity as a marker of rootedness or belonging to particular geographical spaces. Overall, the day highlighted ways in which mobility reflects and negotiates cultural power and how modes of social movement are transmitted, including the transnational circulation of indigenous arts and their reception by non-indigenous audiences.

Stimulus questions:

  • What forms of embodied knowledge (sensual, spatial, kinetic) are encompassed in indigenous performances of mobility?
  • How might indigenous conceptions and enactments of mobility inflect current thinking about cosmopolitanism and cultural belonging?
  • In what ways can indigenous performance contribute to our understanding of the politics of mobility in past and present times?
  • How does performance negotiate ideas about mobility and belonging in relation to issues of rights, citizenship and heritage?
  • What can indigenous kinetics reveal about connections between social practices, communities and places?

Workshop Two: Orality and Transmission

Goodenough College: 15 May 2009

Chair: Professor Rachel Fensham

This workshop examined cultural transmission by focusing closely on oral practices as aspects of intangible heritage. As contemporary indigenous performance demonstrates across a range of artistic, social, legal, cultural and educational domains, orature functions not so much as a preliterate mode of communication but rather as an emphatically embodied transaction. In this respect, this workshop sought to explore the ways in which orality, literacy and mediality dynamically interact, particularly in the reception and preservation of oral practices. Performative aspects of storytelling and witnessing, and their role in collective constructions of historical memory in indigenous cultures, were encompassed in this theme. Drawing from readings by Diana Taylor on the distinction between the archive (stored, written memory and histories) and the repertoire (living, oral memory practices), the participants discussed how the concept of orality shapes and informs an understanding of transmission of cultural knowledge in and for indigenous communities and performance. The day concluded with a powerful and moving lecture from Alanis Obomsawin at the Origins Festival, Riverside Studios, London.

Stimulus questions:

  • What can indigenous performance reveal about how oral practices and traditions are transferred across time and place in minority cultures?
  • What is the status and function of oral transmission in rapidly modernizing indigenous societies?
  • What are the key tensions between orality and textuality in various genres of indigenous performance and what is invested in each?
  • How are ‘traditional’ oral practices being preserved, modified or mediated in print and electronic media? What kinds of rhetorical documents ensue and what is their status in relation to live performance?
  • What are the connections between oral storytelling, collective listening and social memory in indigenous performance situations?   

Workshop Three: Heritage and Material Culture

Royal Holloway: 19 September 2009

Chair: Dr Ian Henderson

This workshop explored how the study of indigenous performance practices might illuminate key characteristics of heritage and how these practices relate to social cohesion. Invited speakers and participants discussed the functions of heritage within its specific social/cultural groups as well as in cross-cultural situations. Heritage was considered not just in terms of transmitting and perpetuating objects, discourses, values and practices, but also in an expanded sense as mobilising historical understanding or social memory to nourish a desire for solidarity between generations. Heritage practices and industries were thus understood to be dynamic expressions as much concerned with modes and impulses for transmission as with the creation of tangible archives.

Stimulus questions:

  • How is heritage transmitted and reinvigorated across different genres of indigenous performance and in multi-media forms?
  • What can site-specific performances by indigenous artists reveal about relationships between land, place and heritage?
  • How are aspects of indigenous heritage presented and consumed in global and/or transnational contexts?
  • How do the politics of authenticity work in relation to indigenous heritage as created and transmitted in live performance and to diverse audiences?
  • What can we understand of heritage from the material remains of indigenous performance, especially those archived in non-indigenous repositories?


Origins Festival London 2009

The Origins festival, curated by Michael Walling of Bordercrossings, was held in various venues throughout London in May 2009 to celebrate the creative arts of First Nations peoples from around the world. The wide-ranging and exciting programme included four theatre productions, numerous film screenings and a number of workshops and panel discussion opportunities to encourage greater awareness and debate on indigenous arts practices among the wider public. The programme primarily focused on the indigenous cultures of Australia, Canada, Aotearoa/New Zealand and the USA, although there were a few examples of productions from other regions of the globe, such as Fiji. The festival provided the public with First Nations’ perspectives on current political and environmental crises, and stimulated intercultural exchange through the arts.

The Indigeneity in the Contemporary World project at Royal Holloway was instrumental in the organisation of the festival, providing advice as well as financial support towards the travel expenses of three of the invited playwrights, Diane Glancy, Daniel David Moses, and David Milroy. All three contributed to the Orality and Transmission workshop organized in conjunction with the festival as part of a three-event series on Indigeneity and Performance. Diane and Daniel, along with Margo Kane and Yves Sioui Durand, also participated in a panel discussion on Native American theatre chaired by Helen Gilbert.

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