Mi’kmaw Word of the Day 2.0 at Eastern Edge

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Jordan Bennett and Ursula Johnson’s Mi’kmaw Word of the Day 2.0 opened at Eastern Edge Gallery on Saturday, February 25th at 7:00p.m. and will run until April 5th.

Jordan Bennett is a multi-disciplinary Mi’kmaq artist from Stephenville Crossing in Newfoundland. He has exhibited extensively in Canada and abroad. Ursula Johnson is a Mi’kmaq artist from Eskasoni, Nova Scotia, known for her powerful performance art and installation.

Their upcoming exhibit at Eastern Edge will build on a previous collaboration, a digital communication project titled, Mi’kmaw Word of the Day. The original project was created in 2010 while Bennett was the Artist in Residence at Plug In ICA in Winnipeg.

Bennett used a social networking platform to write Johnson, a fluent Mi’kmaw speaker. He asked her to translate one word per day into Mi’kmaw and provide a phonetic pronunciation. Bennett printed logs of their conversations and posted them in the windows of Plug In, giving passers-by an opportunity to learn some of the Mi’kmaw language along with him.

Mi’kmaw Word of the Day 2.0 will use a digital soundscape to play recordings of Mi’kmaw words in the gallery. Each day a new word will be added to the soundscape, a gallery attendant will be instructed by Bennett and Johnson to write each word on the wall as it is added to the exhibit’s audio component.

Johnson explains that the new exhibit, “…is developing a new type of operating system on how to yet again learn the language for Jordan while sharing it with the broader community. Only this time the interactivity of community is a bit more integrated and invitational, as opposed to leaving it to happen chance.”

Visitors are asked to bring a trade item in the form of non-perishable food to the gallery. These items will be donated to the shelter at the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre at end of the exhibit.

“The entire installation will be representative of organic growth. Each day, the sound components will grow, with the introduction of a new Mi’kmaw word … the trade items of food donations will grow as the amount of words in the digital soundscape and the visual landscape on the walls grows.” Johnson wrote.

Mi’kmaw Word of the Day 2.0 will build on the Bennett’s and Johnson’s first collaboration by exploring the connection between land and language felt by generations of people in Mi’kmaki (the traditional territories of the Mi’kmaq nation).

Johnson wrote, “…the initial project was in Winnipeg, the language of the Mi’kmaw people is not familiar to the people of that land, nor is the land familiar to the language itself.”

Both artists are interested in the idea that land itself carries memories, for that reason it is important that this exhibit will take place on land that has a connection with the Mi’kmaw language.

“The land carries memories of birthing the language, creating structure, syntax, song, and melody. The land within each geographic region of this entire planet has birthed several language groups.” Johnson explained.

She notes that along with the Indigenous language of Mi’kmaw, Newfoundland and Labrador is home to the languages of other Indigenous peoples including Beothuck, Innu, and Inuit.

“This project uses a digital landscape of sound to create a visual landscape of growth, as organic as the sound and the land itself. Honouring the ancestral cellular memory of the land.” Johnson wrote.

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Eva Crocker

Eva Crocker is a writer from St. John's, her short story collection, Barrelling Forward, is being published by House of Anansi Press in Spring of 2017.

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