This weekend Love Intersections co-hosted the first of two community gatherings called “Done with Diversity: Reframing the future for Indigenous and Racialized Artists”, in collaboration with several Indigenous organizations and other artists of colour, including Full Circle: First Nations Performing Arts, Visceral Visions, co.ERASGA, Vancouver Moving Theatre, Britannia Community Centre, and Rungh Cultural Society. The idea for the gathering grew from Primary Colours/Couleurs primaires, which is a multi-year, Canada wide initiative to decolonize the Canadian arts system, led by Indigenous artists and supported by racialized artists, by centering Indigenous arts practices. The central question we gathered around what “What does a decolonized Canadian arts system look like?”. The two gatherings are funded through the City of Vancouver’s “Host Your Own Engagement” program.
“Done with Diversity” is certainly a loaded phrase – and we deliberately chose it because as racialized artists and artists of colour, we are so fed up with the liberal ways that this idea of “diversity and inclusion” tokenizes us through the narrative of equity and equality, but in reality, the systemic barriers remain in place. We want more than just tokenistic gestures: we want to work towards decolonizing the Canadian arts system (and Canada) through centring Indigenous arts practices. Below are some of my thoughts from conversations at our gathering on Saturday, and some questions that opened up from our conversations.
I left the gathering on Saturday with a deep sense of gratitude to be amongst black, brown, yellow bodies (and allies) in a facilitated space that allowed us to speak, to be present, and to be our whole selves. It was such a power space to be able to talk about the traumas of systemic racism, and the impacts of colonialism to Indigenous communities, in a space that allowed us to be vulnerable, scared, angry, and make mistakes, without fear of retribution.
Several themes emerged from our gathering on Saturday. We talked at length about the need to connect, to have space to share, build solidarity and relationships. To have the time, energy, and resources to work together is deeply impacted by systemic barriers, and is a racialized issue. How can we find ways to get together more, to imagine new possibilities – new worlds – outside of the colonial paradigm?
The notion of relations and relationships was also a key theme that emerged from the discussions on Saturday. Neoliberalism is a deeply pervasive systemic issue, that dictates much of our lives, particularly in the arts community, where values are placed on production (literally). When “what you produce” is the key factor on how artists get rewarded, what other impacts get left out when the metrics are governed by neoliberalism? What happens when we centre right relations, with our communities, with our ancestors, with our future generations?
These ideas and conversations that we had on Saturday are only the beginning of what we hope will be a future of working together towards a decolonized Canadian arts system.