Woodland opens the Voices Yet to Come

BRANTFORD – Four members of the art group The Group of Six came to the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford to present personal stories alongside Visual Artist Elizabeth Doxtater and Playwrite Falen Johnson on Saturday, March 25.

Although very shy, Imani Mitten poses with one of his art pieces depicting a lady smoke-dancer. Photo by Chezney Martin
Although very shy, Imani Mitten poses with one of his art pieces depicting a lady smoke-dancer. Photo by Chezney Martin

Young Artists Kendall Jacobs, Kaya Hill, Imani Mitten and Frankie Warner told individual stories about their experiences in the Group of Six, and performed something unique to themselves—including some of their own personal stories outside of the group.

Johnson explained that her sister Naomi Johnson came up with the idea for Voices Yet to Come, and the duo worked together to make it a reality.

“The motivation came from my sister,” she said. “She was the one that came up with the idea for the evening. She’s a big fan of story telling and story-telling podcasts and I am too. She knew that and she knows I’m a writer too so we started talking about that and what we can do.”

Johnson said that her and her sister brainstormed as to who they would like to work with and being “big fans” of Doxtater, they decided to ask her.

“So, we talked to ‘Betts’ and she said she had this group of kids that she had been working with and that they might be interested, so she approached them,” she said.

Four of the six artists agreed and the night unfolded into both an emotional and beautiful presentation.

Beautiful examples of the Group of Six’s art work. Photo by Chezney Martin
Beautiful examples of the Group of Six’s art work. Photo by Chezney Martin

“Some of the kids wanted to tell longer stories, some wanted to tell shorter stories and some wanted to express through different mediums, and so, we just had to be open to letting them express themselves however they wanted to.”

Several of the artists had no previous public speaking experience but told their stories eloquently, Doxtater explained the way she likes to think about speaking in public.

“I have a little thing that I think of when I have to speak in English, because I don’t have the language,” said Doxtater. “If you get bit by a snake, a venomous snake, they take that same venom and turn it into the cure.

“So, I started thinking about that and somehow it related to the fact that some of us don’t have the language, we only have English. And a lot of times that was really violently forced on our families, and if we don’t have our own indigenous language, how can we heal from that? How can we heal in English? So, I use that as a metaphor. The opportunity to take that same language that was forced upon our people and try to help turn it into the cure.”

Doxtater also drew the connection between the fact that the students were using their voices to tell their stories near the Mohawk Institute, the very institution set to take indigenous voices away.

“We called it The Voices Yet to Come and what I think is really important, and I think it’s really critical that we acknowledge where we are,” she said, motioning to the Mohawk Institute Building. “To create that opportunity for young people with The Voices Yet to Come, to share their stories and have everyone celebrate their stories, I think it’s just completely—I don’t even have an English word for it. But it’s like the cure, healing.”

The young artists were also each given a certificate of recognition by Chief Ava Hill, who watched their presentations with MPP Dave Levac, who also made contributions to the group. As well, family members, friends and supporters enjoyed the young artists presentations and were informed that they may purchase some of the groups art at an upcoming art show in May.

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1 Comment

  1. I really enjoyed having the Voices Yet to Come visit Cambridge with Elizabeth Doxtater and share their stories, songs, and art for a FRESH Stories event at the Queen’s Square library a few Junes ago — before COVID and all.
    I only found this article now, and would like to read all of it, but the left side is cut off on my screen and it is hard to make out the sense of some of the sentences, though others can be guessed at. Maybe someone could email me the whole piece? I would be very grateful!
    I wish the Group of Six and Voices Yet to Come and all their projects ver well!

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