Local artist featuring in Bawaadan Collective’s They Sing Altogether
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
Sioux Lookout artist Brent Wesley is featuring in Mamawi-nikamowak (They Sing Altogether), a project by Bawaadan Collective. He is one of 19 different artists who will each be creating short one to two minute videos. The Creative Director of Bawaadan Collective, Yuma Hester said, “The best ideas are shared and I believe the central one is to elevate Indigenous voice and to further create spaces for our stories.”
Wesley has contributed a video to the series, which is currently in the editing process.
He explained that it is a spoken word essay, combined with a video and photomontage. “I wrote and narrated the piece, and contributed some photography work, while others are providing most of the video and editing.”
He added, “As an artist, I am hoping to find a medium to share and express ideas, thoughts, and issues. I have always been aware of the issues First Nations people deal with, especially when I was creating content at Wawatay and through my recent employment in the First Nations health and education fields.”
“Brent is a formidable talent, gifted in the arts in many different fields, a musician, a visual artist, and masterful photographer, to name a few. We have worked with him before on a few different projects. It quickly became a goal of ours to showcase as many diverse voices as we possibly could. Brent’s piece is powerful, current, and cuts through a lot of the bullshit in the news, and media and speaks from an honest and universally relevant lens,” shared Hester.
Wesley mentioned that his piece deals with racism. “It was prompted from the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement and recent events in the United States, especially as these issues started to gain some mainstream reaction. In some ways, I have become desensitized to some of the tragic events that occur, but one day it all hit me, almost bringing me to my knees. It prompted me to write out my thoughts and reaction and how, as an Indigenous person, what we continue to face on a daily basis. From there I shared it on social media. Yuma came across that piece, and we developed the short that will premiere in late October or early November.”
Formalized in the spring of 2019, Bawaadan Collective is an Indigenous, modern and contemporary content creating organization. According to their website, each member of the collective has independently had personal successes in the field of music, visual arts, film, media arts, fashion, craft and theatre arts.
The first video in the series was released on September 18. The project consists of 22 short videos, which air weekly on YouTube. Hester said that they are working on some larger projects that are in the pipeline, ready to be produced. Meanwhile, the idea of They Sing Altogether emerged as they discussed some current concepts of pieces that they really enjoyed. “We loved the short web format, bite sized shorts that anyone could easily watch and digest within a couple of minutes, that were very quick to produce, and held the modern 'splintered' audience attention. It quickly blossomed as many things tend to within the collective. It became a means to open up the opportunity for many diverse voices from Turtle Island. To create, collaborate, and curate from a few of our favorite talents and powerful artists across all forms of social media,” said Hester.
The last video is scheduled for release in the second week of February 2021. “We haven’t officially ‘closed’ the submissions per se. We’ve asked a number of people for their concepts and ideas, and always love hearing what people come up with, for this particular format (1-2 minutes),” shared Hester. He added that people are still welcome to submit their ideas and concepts, to potentially be able to continue this on-going, weekly program. Anyone interested may email at [email protected], or reach out to them via social media. “The response has been positive for many of the shorts up to this point. We are absolutely elated at the caliber of collaborators for this series. We couldn’t have imagined, in those initial conversations, that we would have so many powerful voices for this series,” concluded Hester.
Wesley shared that he hopes to provide voice to those Indigenous people who are struggling to put their thoughts and emotions to words. He hopes that it also helps provide non-Indigenous people further insight regarding the ongoing struggles of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).
The series can be viewed at Bawaadan Collective’s YouTube Page https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAbVlXnFmpqNWP5tI5SK1Iw.