Samanqani Cocahq (Natalie Sappier) of Tobique First Nation is a leading voice in New Brunswick’s thriving Indigenous art scene. Her first play, Finding Wolastoq Voice, appeared as part of Mòshkamo: Indigenous Arts Rising, the two-and-a-half week festival that opened Indigenous Theatre’s first season. The dance-theatre hybrid is about a young Wolastoqiyik woman who is awakened by the voices of her ancestors. The play features her language and culture – something Samanqani Cocahq said is important to her in all of her creative work.
“Our Wolastoqiyik language is our spirit, our dance, our walk and breath,” she said. “When I hear my language, I feel many ancestors cradling me with love.”
It was a “creative family” that brought Finding Wolastoq Voice together, Samanqani said. She wrote the story, which included her own visual art and music she composed. The team included director Thomas Morgan Jones, choreographer Aria Evans, stage and lighting designer Andy Moro and sound designer Michael Doherty. “Each one of them held the story with so much respect and love. They all had a beautiful way of reacting to the work that reflected their artistry that carried so much spirit.”
She said she was honoured to be part of Indigenous Theatre’s first season, particularly in its celebration of the beauty, strength and resilience of Indigenous women.
“I have always been surrounded by strong women in my life – many great teachers, and there is much I need to know. To be part of a season with many empowering, fearless and inspirational women makes me feel I have a responsibility to keep well, keep going in a good way. Not only to bring my stories forward, but to help other women and girls to do the same.”
During Indigenous History Month 2020, we celebrate that Indigenous Theatre is now a permanent platform dedicated to bringing the works of Indigenous artists to the national stage. Through interviews and recaps of Mòshkamo Indigenous Arts Festival, we revisit our national mandate to include distinct personal and cultural perspectives from coast to coast to coast and languages from all four directions.
Interviews with artists who participated in Indigenous Theatre’s inaugural season act as a retrospective on our first season, which honoured the resilience, strength, and beauty of Indigenous women.