Symbol of love, gathering and welcoming: Edmonton Fringe opens new Indigenous venue

·2 min read
The Indigenous space at the Edmonton Fringe Festival was more than five years in the making.  (Jamie McCannel/CBC News - image credit)
The Indigenous space at the Edmonton Fringe Festival was more than five years in the making. (Jamie McCannel/CBC News - image credit)

A teepee was on the grounds of the Edmonton Fringe Wednesday in honour of the theatre festival's first Indigenous space in its 39-year history.

The Indigenous-led and Indigenous-centred venue is named pêhonân, meaning "meeting place" in Cree, and set up in the repurposed Roxy Theatre on Gateway Boulevard near 85th Street.

The teepee was raised on the Fringe grounds is meant to highlight it as a space of "change, transformation and Indigenous strength," said Josh Languedoc, an Indigenous playwright, director and actor as well as the festival's first director of Indigenous strategic planning.

The space is a chance to create a sense of belonging for his community, he said.

"The idea was to have a space that uplifts just Indigenous artists and Indigenous voices," he said. "What better symbol of sovereignty and 'I'm here, we're still here' than building a giant teepee right outside the venue."

Jamie McCannel/CBC News
Jamie McCannel/CBC News

Languedoc said the space was necessary.

"I've rarely seen my people and my stories in traditional theatre spaces, let alone in these types of festival settings," he said. "So this really is step one in that direction."

Getting an Indigenous space at the Fringe was more than five years in the making, according to Murray Utas, the Edmonton Fringe artistic director.

It is the perfect opportunity to educate people on the community and its artists, Utas said.

"What Josh has done is curated a bunch of wonderful Indigenous performers, brought together wonderful circles to have conversations," he said.

"We're putting up a symbol of love and gathering and welcoming to a festival that has been around a long time that wants to honour those that came long before us."

Languedoc recruited people, including Robert Hope from Enoch Cree Nation, to help build the teepee.

Hope said wants the teepee, which will be set up for the remainder of the festival, to be just the start of Indigenous pride and education at the Fringe.

"I hope it gets bigger from here," he said. " I'd like to see a whole teepee town here next year."

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