Posted on 23/01/2012
During autumn 2011, the Indigeneity team traveled to France to hold and participate in a symposium entitled ‘Building Reconciliation and Social Cohesion through Indigenous Festival Performance’. The event, convened by Estelle Castro and Helen Gilbert, took place at the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP) on November 17–18, and is one of a series of symposia organised by team members to sharpen research in the project areas and forge international links.
The symposium featured fifteen papers given over two days to approximately thirty participants. 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 (both pictured above), 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, pointing to 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.
The Indegeneity Project is part of the The Centre for International Theatre and Performance Research, housed at Royal Holloway, University of London's Drama Department. For more details, please visit the Centre's website.