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Arts tour New Constellations makes its first Maritimes stop in Halifax

New Constellations aspires to bring Canadian communities together with music and literature

4 min read
caption New Constellations travels to Halifax next week.
caption The New Constellations travels to Halifax this week.

New Constellations wants to build community in the cities it travels to — which will be no different when the tour lands at Halifax’s Spatz theatre on Dec. 6.  

“The whole idea of the New Constellations name is rooted in this idea of drawing new connections between different various points of light,” said Damian Rogers, poet and one of the tour’s organizers. “And all of these artists are such incredibly beautiful points of light.”

New Constellations is a tour of music and art that includes a lineup of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists. Visiting towns, cities and Indigenous communities, it has already made multiple stops across Canada. So far New Constellations has travelled from Saskatoon to Wiikwemkoong, Ont., before heading to the east coast. Rogers called New Constellations a ‘travelling caravan’ taking 50 artists around Canada. 

Jason Collett, one of the tour organizers, said it was important to tour in order to reach as many communities as possible.

“The point is to not just go to First Nations communities but go to places like Halifax where there are Indigenous communities everywhere,” he said. 

The show was put together by The Basement Revue, hosted and curated by Rogers and Collett, as well as Jarrett Martineau who is the creative producer for Revolutions Per Minute, an Indigenous music platform and record label.

Although New Constellations is sponsored by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, both Collett and Martineau are apprehensive to label the festival as reconciliation.

“This tour is foremost about art and community; it’s about showing what’s possible in terms of building relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists and communities,” said Martineau.

“It’s about creating a safe and celebratory space for that to happen, and it’s about setting the stage for further conversations and relationships to develop.”

Martineau said they want the audience to determine what reconciliation is and where the tour fits into their definition of the word. Collett said one of the points of New Constellations is also to allow next wave Indigenous voices to speak for the tour.  

“I’m essentially providing an open space/platform for young Indigenous voices, and my job is to keep all agendas out of that space and allow those voices to articulate whatever the hell they want,” said Collett.

Some of these artists appear on the schedule for one city, but many others like Lido Pimienta, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and Jeremy Dutcher are there for the whole run. 

caption Lido Pimienta will return to Halifax with New Constellations.

In Halifax, Pimienta, Simpson and Dutcher will be joined on stage by Collett, George Elliott Clarke, Joel Plaskett and Jenn Grant.

“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” said Simpson. “I think there is this intimacy between the artists and the audience that is pretty rare in shows these days.”

Collett said there has been a lot of “cross-pollinating” between the artists, especially those who joined the tour for multiple dates. Once the tour started, Rogers found many artists were on stage for almost the entire show.

“It’s been amazing … to spend time with other musicians, particularly the Indigenous musicians,” said Simpson. “The energy was really beautiful.”  

Collett said the tour has been bigger than anything any of them had ever done before.

“It’s really been an amazing opportunity to bring together 50 plus artists of different disciplines and different cultures.”

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