Cultures collide at Two Story Café

Matt Gardner
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The Indigenous Peoples Artist Collective (IPAC) showcased local avant-garde performers at the Arts Centre on Saturday evening with the Two Story Café, part of the Culture Days weekend.

Spoken word artist and Indigenous Peoples Artist Collective vice-president John McDonald recites his piece “Don Saleski Was A Good Tap Dancer” for the Two Story Café. The event was held on Saturday night at the Arts Centre as part of the Culture Days weekend.

Culture Days is an annual three-day volunteer effort that aims to raise awareness and engagement of Canadians in cultural activities from coast to coast.

The name of the Two Story Café alludes to the mixture of cultures and influences that often characterizes great art.

“My understanding of it is two cultures colliding, two aspects of something colliding,” IPAC administrative and program director Terri Lynn McDonald said. “So it would be traditional and contemporary colliding, this space that we can explore that together. You have new media-integrated performances, multidisciplinary performances, and they’re coming to a place that’s very traditional.

“P.A. is a place that can be very traditional sometimes … Sometimes anything new that comes into it, it’s like, ‘Whoa, what is this new thing?’ So that’s the café part of it, where’s it’s nice and it’s calm and it’s familiar, but we add just that little bit every year into it. It’s a place that we can explore those things, expand on our knowledge of what art is and grow in our understanding of it.”

The main attractions that night were poetry readings by two spoken word artists, John McDonald (“Don Saleski Was A Good Tap Dancer”) and Kevin Wesaquate (“Mistasini”), as well as a musical performance by drummer Trevor Amyotte. Visitors could also gaze at paintings by McDonald, Duane Linklater and Tanya Lukin-Linklater while they enjoyed a selection of appetizers.

Despite the event name, John McDonald, who also serves as IPAC vice-president, downplayed the Aboriginal influences on his own poetry.

It’s a place that we can explore those things, expand on our knowledge of what art is and grow in our understanding of it. Terri Lynn McDonald

“For myself, I’ve never been comfortable being called an Aboriginal artist,” he said before the show. “People automatically think, ‘OK, you’re painting eagle feathers and you’re singing powwow and you’re painting buffalo skulls.’ I prefer to think of myself as an artist who just happens to be Aboriginal … My artwork has very little Aboriginal influence in it, in terms of what I’ll be performing tonight.”

Nevertheless, he added that many performers over the past days had indeed talked about how their experiences as Aboriginal people had impacted their identity as artists in the community.

McDonald’s spoken word piece that night, “Don Saleski Was a Good Tap Dancer,” consisted of a series of loosely-connected vignettes in free verse. The piece was heavily influenced by Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs and his novel Naked Lunch.

Naked Lunch is chemically-enhanced stream-of-consciousness,” McDonald said. “So for me, I’ve taken the essence of … this kind of weird jaunt through life situations. It’s like one of those dreams where you just go from point to point to point with no segue in-between. It’s almost like verbal diarrhea. It’s just out there and it’s going off on different tangents and maybe coming back, maybe not.”

Organizations: IPAC

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