Six Foot Festival and Wiikwemkoong Arts and Music Festival take shape, COVID-style

An artist has transformed this six-foot cube, located at Indian Hill in Manitowaning, into a work of art as part of this year’s physically distanced Six Foot Festival. Visit it and the other entries this weekend.

WIIKWEMKOONG – Live entertainment and the arts are among the heaviest hit sectors in the global economy and arts and entertainment professionals have been struggling to find a new path forward as the pandemic reshapes the ways we take part in the arts. Debajehmujig Storytellers have rejigged two of their popular offerings in order to be able to put them on during the pandemic.

“Due to COVID-19, the 11th annual Six Foot Festival and the 3rd Annual Wiikwemkoong Arts and Music Festival (WAMF) will be teaming up this fall to bring you the best in arts and entertainment virtually,” said co-ordinator Ashley Manitowabi. “It’s a mixed thing,” he noted, with both indoor and outdoor exhibits and a careful adherence to pandemic protocols. “We have opened up our galleries to have the Six Foot Festival and, new this year, we are adding drive by performances. The initial idea came up as a way to deal with the lockdown provisions. We looked for answers to ‘how can we put things in front of the community’.”

The outdoor performances are taking place at four sites across Wiikwemkoong, including the Four Corners, Two O’Clock, the intersections of Webkamigad and South Bay roads, the intersection of Wikwemikong Way and Kaboni Road.

“These are the four points as you go around the community,” said Mr. Manitowabi. “We also have two installations in Manitowaning, at the information booth and Indian Hill (follow the road down toward the Norisle but turn left before descending).

Mr. Manitowabi and Debaj artistic director Bruce Naokwegijig will be the online hosts for the event, with Mr. Manitowabi conducting the live portion.

“We have pre-recorded some of the drive-by performances, so if anything happens we will still be able to do it,” said Mr. Manitowabi. “We are all pretty excited to see how things work.”

Artists with installations and performances in the Six Foot Festival include Kerry Latimer, Marianna Lafrance, Ashley Manitowabi, Chirstine Friday, Brian Fox, Daniel Recollet-Mejaki, Sheldon Mejaki, Sheila Trudeau, Austin Featherstone, Sonny O, Bruce Noakwegijig, Lauren Satok, Gordon Soplet, Samantha Brennan, Joahnna Berti, Sharon Hunter and Ray Fox.

In addition to the installations there will be workshops conducted by Karen Pheasant, Lauren Satok, Sarah Earley, Mary Lou Manitowabi and Veronica Johnny.

Artists performing at the WAMF include Leslie Neshkiwe, Adrian Sutherland, Tasha Spillet-Sumner, Leonard Sumner, Perry Bebamash, Everette Morrison, Leslie McCue, Lindy Kinoshemeg, Logan Staats, Crystal Shawanda, Stephanie Pangowish, Leland Bell, Zig Gaud, Ray Fox and the ever-delightful Debajehmujig House Band.

“As well as the art installations and music festival, on Thursday October 1 at 8:10 pm, as part of the Six Foot Festival and WAMF we are featuring award winning and number one best-selling author Tasha Spellet Sumner,” said Mr. Manitowabi. “Her book ‘Surviving the City’ was the winner of the Indigenous Voices Award, alternate format and an In the Margins Top Fiction Novel for 2020.”

Ms. Spillett’s graphic novel debut, ‘Surviving the City,’ is described as “a story about womanhood, friendship, colonialism and the anguish of a missing loved one. Miikwan and Dez are best friends,” noted Mr. Manitowabi. “Miikwan is Anishinaabe; Dez is Inninew. Together, the teens navigate the challenges of growing up in an urban landscape—they’re so close, they even completed their berry fast together. However, when Dez’s grandmother becomes too sick, Dez is told she can’t stay with her anymore. With the threat of a group home looming, Dez can’t bring herself to go home and disappears. Miikwan is devastated, and the wound of her missing mother resurfaces. Will Dez’s community find her before it’s too late? Will Miikwan be able to cope if they don’t? We are excited to showcase Tasha’s presentation on her craft and career.”

Both the Six Foot Festival and WAMF run this weekend, October 1, 2 and 3. Detailed schedules and more information can be found online at debaj.ca, on Facebook at Debajehmujig Storytellers or the ad on Page 11 of this newspaper.