I recently had the opportunity to attend the Gigidoowag Ziibiik (Rivers Speak) Community Play. This fantastic project was the culminating event of Thinking Rock Community Arts‘ efforts to engage community members in story telling and art making. Since 2013 Thinking Rock has involved over 1500 individuals in hands-on making and storytelling with an emphasis on reflecting on local rivers and waterways. This initiative also worked to create spaces for cross-cultural conversations and involve both Indigenous and settler communities.
The Rivers Speak play included over 30 cast members of all ages and was held on the traditional pow wow grounds of Misswezhaging (Mississaugi First Nation). This community art project was a joy to see come to fruition. The play was based on the stories, oral histories, and memories collected by Thinking Rock since 2013.
The play intertwined settler and Indigenous perspectives on water, community, and family — it followed Marie (settler) and Ira (Indigenous) community members who lived locally but passed away within recent years. The play was guided by two local elders and the narration was a mixture of English and Ojibway. It also included audience participation components – for example the audience walked through an outdoor living stage and were invited to participate in a round dance at the end of the play.
It was an extremely powerful experience to participate in as an audience member and it was beautiful to see such a nuanced story come together based on community narratives and memories. The work undertaken by Thinking Rock is a great example of community engaged history, community arts and participatory story building. I’m looking forward to seeing what projects Thinking Rock tackles in the future.