Sharing Across Cultures: the Indigenous Artists’ Meet and Greet

Published on 20 May 2022

Last night, artists and delegates alike gathered in the conference room of the Radisson Blu Metropol hotel to meet the indigenous artists at the Bibu / ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering 2022 from Canada, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Australia, Taiwan, Turtle Island, South Africa, and Sapmi. There was a great atmosphere as everyone settled in and stood around chatting before the event, drinks in hand and discussing the day’s performances.

The Indigenous artists were welcomed with hearty applause from the crowd, particularly the men from Le Moana Dance, whose performance Shel We had been one of the stand-out performances of the week. Having seen it myself, I very much understand the sentiment.

Following lovely speeches from Niklas Borefus, CEO of Bibu, Sue Giles, president of ASSITEJ, and Åsa Simma, CEO of Sami Theatre, several of the artists from Aotearoa sang a song of welcome and gratitude to thank the space and the people in it for welcoming them and making the evening and their experience so wonderful.

The Australian artists attending the gathering (photo by Ailbhe Noonan)

The Taiwanese artists had everyone on their feet to learn a traditional song and dance. The feeling of communion when everyone joined hands and the circle moved around the room in time to a song full of joy and fun was something unlike anything I experienced anywhere else at the festival. The two dancers told us that at traditional celebrations in their culture, the dancing could go on for as long as two hours, but we stopped after about five minutes of dancing, stepping, and laughing.

The song of welcome and thanks (photo by Ailbhe Noonan)

As everyone went back to their seats, we were taught a traditional Yoik by one of the Saami dancers about a worm. Quizzing us on whether we truly saw the worm in front of us after hearing the Yoik, he explained that the Yoik is one of the first learned by young Saami children as an introduction to the art. By the time we had all learned the hand movements and the melody, everyone could see the worm right in front of them.

With the night coming to a close and everyone getting ready for another busy day, the mood was cheerful but decidedly tired. It was a fantastic opportunity to hear from the indigenous artists at the festival and to learn a small piece of their culture, and there are moments from this event that I will carry with me for a long time.