Film feature: Journey to Adaka
First Nations find their pride
By Jenny Bird
The opening line in Journeys to Adaka is “People are beginning to discover themselves again” – is spoken by a First Nations woman from the Yukon, and is a statement of the film’s primary theme.
Yukon, abutting the border of Alaska, is a Canadian subarctic wilderness territory of lakes, tundra and snowy mountains, traversed by the mighty Yukon River. There live indigenous first nations tribes who gather every year for the Adaka Cultural Festival in Whitehorse, the capital.
Journeys to Adaka introduces us to seven indigenous artists as they prepare for the festival. A fashion curator, a traditional ravens tail weaver, a canoe maker, a sculptor, a singer/songwriter and two teachers of language, dance, singing, drumming and performance. We meet them in their homes, at rehearsal, engaged in their creative practice, and completing the work that will travel to Whitehorse for the festival.
The film, says producer Teresa Earle, “is not just about the literal journey to the Festival, but about the personal journeys of the artists”.
The older artists speak of the severance from their culture, language and identity by the residential school program. Akin to Australia’s policy of removing Aboriginal children and placing them in homes, the Canadian Government removed indigenous children as young as five and placed them in residential schools away from their homes and families. One older artist speaks of his art practice as ‘cultural connection to our history that’s almost genetic’.
The younger, more urbanised artists speak of their shame and the rejection of their indigenous identity as young people, until a moment, a drumming moment, or a vision, when an awakening occurred, described as a ‘blood memory’ by one artist.
‘Adaka’ means ‘coming into the light’ in the Southern Tutchone language of the Yukon.
Low budget, filmed in collaboration with the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association, directed and produced by Fritz Mueller and Teresa Earle, this 57 minute documentary shines its own beam of light on first nations peoples pushing back against colonialism.
Journeys to Adaka screens at the Byron Bay Film Festival Saturday 7 October at 1pm at the Byron Community Theatre.
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