Debajehmujig Storytellers hosting a week-long series in Waterloo

Debajehmujig Storytellers

MANITOWANING—A contingent of close to 10 storytellers from Debajehmujig Theatre Group (Debaj) will be hitting the road in early May to share both traditional stories and knowledge and learn from members of cultural and faith communities in southern Ontario for their Waterloo Storytelling Project.

“We’ve spent about a month in creation mode, from getting concepts and ideas together to creating the show. It’s open-ended; we’re going to be communicating with groups in Waterloo throughout the week, with a different group each day. We’ll take some of the ideas they’re talking about and incorporate them in the show,” said Debaj artistic director Bruce Naokwegijig.

The final production at the end of week is titled Maamawi, an Anishinaabe word that refers to togetherness among all living things, whether water, plants, animals or humans. After the week of meetings and discussions, Debaj is holding a cumulative theatrical performance that incorporates some of the lessons from the week. It will hit the stage at the University of Waterloo’s Theatre of the Arts on Saturday, May 11 at 7 pm.

The two main organizing groups in Waterloo are Divest Waterloo, an organization that advocates for abandoning fossil fuels, and Faith and the Common Good, a Canada-wide charitable network that helps religious and spiritual groups take action to build sustainable communities.

Beginning on May 6, Debaj will be hosting a series of storytelling workshops and theatre activities at a number of community partners in the Waterloo region. Hosts of the workshops include Rockaway Mennonite Church, Parkminster United Church, the Kitchener-Waterloo Gurudwara (Sikh temple) and the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery.

At each stop, they will enable people from diverse backgrounds and life experiences to share their stories, learn about the importance of relationships with the land and people and advocate for increased climate action. 

“Climate change is more than a technological or economic problem; at its core it’s a relationship problem resulting from a breakdown in our relationships with each other and with the land. Debajehmujig’s storytelling and theatre will provide opportunities for authentic interactions amongst highly diverse groups in our community, deepening our understanding to discover common ground,” stated an event description.

“Our project is a local place-based response to a global emergency,” it stated.

Mr. Naokwegijig said the production will bring awareness to different perspectives on quality of life and the issues various people face. He added that it extends some of the teachings that Debaj offers.

“Our traditional and spiritual knowledge of a long time ago can help inform us today on a personal, community and spiritual level,” he said.

This project has been three years in the making and is finally emerging after a period of postponement. A local advisory circle is helping to co-ordinate the project in the Waterloo area, including its leader Amy Smoke and Heather Majaury, an Algonquin theatre artist and community animator.

The final performance of Maamawi at the University of Waterloo on May 11 is free of charge. Tickets can be found through ticket seller Eventbrite by searching for ‘Maamawi.’