An Indigenous burlesque collective known as Virago Nation will perform in Surrey this week as part of an event designed to help people “better understand reconciliation, decolonization and indigenization when it comes to sexuality.”
On Thursday evening (Jan. 24), Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Surrey campus will host a gathering called “Medicine in Our Very Bones: Gender, Sexuality and Embodied Resistance in Indigenous Burlesque,” first in a series of events at KPU.
“The purpose of the event is to celebrate Indigenous arts — and particularly arts created by Indigenous women — and to prompt a deeper understanding of issues such as Indigenous representation, body sovereignty, and sexual identity,” says event organizer Jennifer Hardwick, a KPU English instructor.
Virago Nation seeks to reclaim Indigenous sexuality from the effects of colonization, according to Shane Sable, a member of the collective.
“From our perspective, reclaiming Indigenous sexuality means representing multifaceted expressions of sexuality that defy racist colonial stereotypes that promote violence against Indigenous women,” Sable says in a KPU release.
“By participating in an art form that is inherently sexual and doing it with an explicit demonstration of free will, we dismantle notions that Indigenous sexuality doesn’t belong to us.”
The event, held at the Conference Centre at KPU Surrey (Cedar room 1205), also aligns with KPU’s goal of indigenization, said Diane Purvey, dean in the Faculty of Arts at KPU.
“Increasing Indigenous participation is a key element of KPU’s new academic plan,” she stated, “and two primary goals are to enhance relationships with local Indigenous communities and to strengthen organizational structures to support current KPU Indigenous students and establish Indigenous learning communities.”
Also, Hardwick added, art is a good way to deal with that misinformation by introducing people to new information and ideas.
“I think there is a growing awareness at KPU and in Canada about Indigenous peoples, cultures, and histories, but there is still a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding out there — we have a long way to go,” Hardwick said.
Over the next year, Virago Nation will be featured at other events in the series, which is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Virago Nation was founded in May 2016, according to a post at viragonation.ca.
“Through humour, seduction, pop culture and politics,” the website says, “they will show that Indigenous women will not be confined to the colonial virgin-whore dichotomy but will design a new dynamic and multi-faceted sexual identity rooted in their own desires.”