'Have you ever seen a beaver lodge?
Do you know what it looks like?
It looks like a belly.
Like a sweatlodge.
I’m sure it even feels like one.
She seeks the meaning of her recurrent dream about the beaver.
She asks questions to elders around her.
Herb told her the dream had to do with healing the heart. Her family line.
Mike reminded her that the beaver was one of the animals that dived to the bottom of the lake. He wasn’t able to come back alive but in his paw, a bit of Earth from beneath the waters.
This dream is like a prophecy.
Like the creation of a new world. Her World.
She cannot put all the pieces together yet.
So she gathers the signs along the way.
She seeks but only when she will stop seeking will she find.
Okinum is a story inspired by the women of my ancestral line, from my great-great grandmother Mani Pizandawatc down to myself. It is a personal quest about identity and cultural transmission, and the legacy of psychic and embodied knowledge that is passed down from mother to daughter.
In the Anishnabemowin language, Okinum means “dam”, as in a barrier or a structure which blocks. The piece is constructed like a prophecy, a series of scenes as in a dream sequence, and in which the relationship between space and time is conceived in a circular rather than linear fashion. Okinum is an intimate reflection on the notion of internal “dams” and ancestral memory.
Plunging into the history of my great-great grandmother’s life, I discovered many things about myself. I was able to trace many parallels between her life and mine, as if history was repeating itself, cyclically. I felt the need to share these discoveries.
The writing of Okinum is supported by Playwright’s Workshop Montreal through its Interdisciplinary Writers’ Unit, as well as by the Centre d’écriture des auteurs dramatiques (CEAD). Emilie Monnet also received dramaturgical support from Native Earth through the Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival (Toronto, November 2012). Further development of the work took place during a writing residency at Creative Gros Morne (Newfoundland, April 2016).
The intersection of theatre, performance, and media arts allows for new pathways of expression to emerge, from which Émilie Monnet explores themes of identity, memory, history and transformation. Drawing inspiration from dreams and mythology—personal and collective—her work presents richly woven narratives that question the world we live in today. Her most recent creation TSEKAN will premiere at OFFTA Festival in June 2016. A graduate of Ondinnok’s theatre training program in partnership with the National Theatre School of Canada (Montreal, 2007), Émilie also studied Media Arts and holds a Masters in Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution from Deusto University, Spain and Uppsala University, Sweden (2004). Her artistic engagement is inspired by years of social activism with indigenous organizations in Canada and Latin America, as well as community art projects with incarcerated women and Aboriginal youth. Émilie’s heritage is Anishnaabe and French, and she lives in Montreal.