Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"Wisdom of Ages" First Nations Stories performed by Shannon Thunderbird

Last Sunday, February 7th, I saw a performance (for children) of Canadian First Nations stories by Shannon Thunderbird, "Wisdom of Ages". Mrs. Thunderbird is a Coast Tsimshian First Nations singer and storyteller.

When I arrived at Hart House in the University of Toronto (1) I didn't know about "Wisdom of Ages" performance, it was walking inside the main building, sightseeing, that I found the performance was going to take place at one of those many big rooms Hart House has for studies and workshops, so stopped for a glance and enjoyed it.

The first things that caught my attention was Mrs. Thunderbird costume and drum. Over simple common clothes she was wearing a light brown leather jacket with some aboriginal motives, all colorfoul, brilliant and very singular each of them; while she was walking and telling her stories those motives were walking with her catching our attention all the time. On her side, on the floor, a drum with a colorfoul eagle, just there almost all the time but a very powerful image.

Photographs of Shannon Thunderbird's costume and drum

There were two short educational stories, one from a group of stories called Wolf teachings, The Story of the Fox, and other mythic one describing why First Nations People call to North America "The Turtle Island". Simple and easy stories told in a simple way as any storyteller does, only animated with animal skins, a fox and a turtle. Children were happy and very attentive in general but we, adults, didn't loose any of her words and movements.

Mrs. Thunderbird telling stories

A kind of workshop-one session of songs a music was the final part of the performance, Mrs. Thunderbird showed us how to play with drums and how to sing aboriginal songs (one part in original language and one part in English) and all the small audience sang and play in a very very good mood (you can see it in the video).

Singing and drumming aboriginal music

It was a very nice surprise, I learned like a a child, and for a moment I was one of them, listening to that fantastic old lady and watching fascinated her jacket's motives, her painted and carved instruments, and catching through her words all this different First Nations universe.

(1) Hart House is a student house where sports and culture are learned and practiced. It is a culture centre in downtown Toronto. Its beautiful building was constructed in 1919 and designed by architect Henry Sproatt.

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