Art is … Transformation! TPT at the Hook and Ladder with Native artists

Art is … Transformation is a longtime series of TPT (Twin Cities Public TV) where they invite a curator to bring in and lift up burgeoning artists that interest them. Tonight’s curator was New Native Theatre’s Artistic Director, Rhiana Yazzie. I accidentally got to meet her over the free community meal before the event. She told me it was important to her to choose artists of all ages because, especially in the Native community, people often don’t come to doing art until they have lived a while. Yet, funding and much recognition often goes only to young artists. She chose well! And it was a message I needed to hear tonight so I thank them all.

First up was shadow puppetry with Rebekah Crisanta de Ybarra a.k.a. Lady Xøk and Magdalena Kaluza. Theirs was a charming and heartbreaking work about a granddaughter catching the grandmother being dismissive of brown people and refusing to recognize that while she considered herself mixed, she too was brown. It speaks to the insidious nature of systemic racism, but it also speaks to the power of a child in your life to help unlearn such a thing.

The work is beautiful. The (4) performers are intergenerational with the intent of building embodied storytelling at all ages. Helping the youngest generation feel the stories they are being told (and telling). They are also very active in working to stop climate collapse by restoring the balance of masculine and feminine in nature.

Lini Tsii’łibe Wilkins was next up; she is a playwright, poet and actress. She was unfortunately not on the stage but we saw a TPT video of her. She came to art when her children moved away, as she was reaching her sixth decade. She found the quiet to reconnect with the small person inside of her – the person she was before going to boarding school. It is important to Lini and her community to be a good relative; her stories reflect that pass the message onto others in a fun way.

The grand finale was Thomas Draskovic playing with his band, the Pretendians. Thomas teaches Lakota language to young people and is an actor. The music is ranges from punk to early garage rock. The ethos is decidedly punk. They sing about Our Rights, War Cry and a song spurred by folks telling Thomas to “go back home” called Southside Welcoming Committee. There’s also a song about the 38 Lakota killed in Mankato MN in 1862. The power of teaching through music goes deep and reaches an audience that may not be prepared to hear in a classroom. Next, time I’m going to see them in a dancing space for sure!

Another installment of the series will play live at the Hook and Ladder on June 16, 2022.

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