This year’s St. John’s Native Friendship Centre’s Spirit Song Festival is happening November 18th and 19th with the theme of Reconciliation Through Collaboration.
“Our histories in many ways are different, but we have a shared provincial history and identity that we can celebrate, and we can take time to develop relationships through that celebration,” explains Danielle Sullivan, the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre’s Communications Officer.
The Festival began five years ago as a performance at The LSPU Hall showcasing the work of indigenous artists in St. John’s and surrounding areas. Since then, the Festival has been continuously growing, last year it became a two-day Festival and added a series of popular workshops on topics like throat singing, ceramics, and stone craving.
This year the Festival was able to continue to expand; it has moved into larger venues and invited artists from outside of the province to perform. In keeping with the theme of Reconciliation Through Collaboration, the Festival has invited indigenous and non-ingenious artists to perform together at this year’s events.
“When we had an opportunity to grow the event, we asked ourselves how can we use this event to not just promote the indigenous artists but also move forward with building better relationships,” Says Sullivan.
The first night of the Festival is a fundraising gala for the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre (SJNFC) at the Johnson Geo Center. There will be collaborative performances by indigenous and non-indigenous artists including The Navigators and Eastern Owl.
“We wanted to use art as a way to move forward with reconciliation. What better way to move forward than to bring people together to celebrate their uniqueness but also to create something new together, something that represents all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” Says Sullivan.
The second day of the Festival will be an urban-Mawiomi with family activities, live music, and food and craft sales. There will performances by Eastern Owl, The Swinging Belles, and Wonderbolt Circus, as well as Eastern Eagle, an award-winning a drum group from Nova Scotia.
SJNFC has also provided tabling space for members of the community to sell wares and cuisine at Mawiomi.
“There will be Christmas decorations and more traditional items like moccasins and seal skin products and I’ve heard there will be Syrian desserts. It’s really about people coming together to celebrate all the pieces that make up our provincial identity,” Says Sullivan.
Sullivan explained that it is important to SJNFC that the Festival is accessible to the community, and for that reason Mawiomi will be free and open to the public.
“Whether people come to the fundraiser or they come to Mawiomi, they’re participating in the process of reconciliation by getting to know their Newfoundland and Labrador brothers and sisters and learning about the different cultures that make up our province,” Says Sullivan.