Since 2007, Border Crossings has run Origins: Festival of First Nations, bringing to London some of the world's foremost indigenous musicians, theatre-makers, visual artists, film-makers and cooks, to exhibit and explain, to perform and inform, to debate and celebrate. This is a biennial festival of indigenous theatre, film, comedy, storytelling, music and debate highlighting indigenous perspectives on the environment, globalization, truth and reconciliation, and healing. Origins aims to give a stronger sense of the wealth and value of First Nations cultures, and to provide a forum where UK audiences and opinion-formers can engage with them directly, through performance, exhibition, and in dialogue.
As with all Border Crossings projects, Origins is accompanied by an innovative and high-quality programme of Participation and Learning. Programmes take place in schools and with community groups, drawing on the themes from the festival. They include performances, workshops, museum visits and exhibitions made in collaborations between artists and participants. For Origins 2011, the programme introduced an oral history element that contributes to learning both within those UK-based communities represented in the festival and between these community groups and the interviewers: school children in 2012 and London based volunteers in 2015. These histories are collected as a legacy of each Festival programme but are also testament to the ongoing relationship between the UK and indigenous communities around the world. They are a contribution to a record of Britain today and they are a contribution to the oral traditions of storytelling that characterise First Nations and indigenous cultures.
The Origins 2015 programme explored this relationship between London and indigenous communities around the world further by adding more interviews to the archive and by producing a documentary mapping the hidden histories of the indigenous presence within and around London both historically and presently. In Origins 2017, we worked closely with a range of archives and museums to explore photographic representations of Native American people, and to make new photographic responses with schoolchildren, volunteers and refugees.
In the West, tradition is regarded either as a fixed reserve of knowledge and practice or an explicitly inauthentic political invention. In the West, history is traditionally written. For First Nations communities, neither tradition nor history are separable from living in the everyday. Tradition is a vital way to articulate a community’s presence in the world. History is a critical medium of oral storytelling and embodied performance for sustaining that presence through adaptation and change. Past and present intertwine, as the one constantly creates a vision for the other. As historian James Clifford puts it, ‘Loyalty to a traditional past is, in practice, a way ahead, a distinct path in the present.’
The next festival is taking place in 2019 and we are already busy programming it!