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MayworksHalifax Festival opening ceremony celebrates indigenous resistance

by Robert Devet

Members of the All Nations Drummers at the kick-off of this year's MayWorksHalifax Festival, ten days of celebration of the arts and resistance.  Photo Robert Devet
Members of the All Nations Drummers at the kick-off of this year's MayWorksHalifax Festival, ten days of celebration of the arts and resistance. Photo Robert Devet
Elder Billy Lewis offered a prayer of gratitude and reminisced about his 40+ consecutive years of May 1st celebrations.  Photo Robert Devet
Elder Billy Lewis offered a prayer of gratitude and reminisced about his 40+ consecutive years of May 1st celebrations. Photo Robert Devet

K'JIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) – There is a distinct reason why this year's MayworksHalifax Festival was opened with traditional Mi'kmaw ceremonies offered by elder Billy Lewis and the All Nations Drummers.

Nor was it coincidental that the event occurred in the Dalhousie Art Gallery, featuring striking works from the Beat Nation exhibit, a show about hip hop and aboriginal culture.

"The festival is always about social, environmental and economic justice, and this year we wanted to focus on the indigenous cultures in this region," Sébastien Labelle, main organizer of the ten-day event, told the Halifax Media Co-op.

"First of all because of where the festival happens, in Mi'kma'ki. But we also wanted to recognize that last years' struggles led by First Nations and indigenous communities have really been a beacon of inspiration for all activists in the region."

Kyle Buott, President of the Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council, also referred to that theme of indigenous resistance in his opening words.

"It has not always been the case that the Labour movement has been an ally to the indigenous movement across the country," said Buott. But that's been changing, especially since Idle No More started, when we saw almost every union in the country take the side of the aboriginal peoples in their struggle for their rights and in defense of the treaties."

"That is not how it has always been, and we are glad to play a small role in that change," said Buott.

This is the fifth year for the festival, an extended celebration of International Worker's Day on May 1st.

Each year the festival has grown in scope. Organizers believe that this year's festival is one of the largest in the country, second only to its Toronto counterpart.

The festival features theatre, documentaries, print making, photography, writing and panel discussions.

"Another goal [of the festival] is to bring artists and workers together," said Buott. "It's not just about one group called workers and another group called artists."

"Artists are workers as well, and they should to be compensated, they deserve to be paid."

Check out the full program on the MayWorksFestival web site or on the Halifax Media Co-op events calendar.

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert

 


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