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L’nuwesimk: El-noo-wee-simk: Speaking Indian 

Ursula Johnson and Angella Parsons find intimacy and history all over the city.

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Exhibit 201
Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre
2158 Gottingen Street (6pm)
Burying grounds at Sinnot Hill Park, 31 Windmill Road, Dartmouth (8pm)
Granville Court, Granville at Duke Street (10pm)

For their Nocturne piece L'nuwesimk, the artists Ursula Johnson and Angella Parsons are proposing something very small and incredibly wide at once: At three sites in Halifax and Dartmouth, chosen for their relationships to them individually and together, they will talk. Parsons, who is white, will ask Johnson, whose first language is Mi'kmaq, if the latter will teach the former her language. Thus begins a 45-minute conversation.

"It's almost like an exercise of looking at everything that's going on in our direct environment, but always staying here with each other the whole time," says Johnson.

Each has an independent art practice—Johnson is the 2017 Sobey Award Winner—but when they make work together (they're married) it's under the name Kinuk. L'nuwesimk was originally performed in 2013 in Charlottetown; this week's performance will "relate it back to the foundational element of Kinuk, which is all about our relation to each other," says Parsons. "It comes back to the relational aesthetics between us and within our relationship and also the way that we move through the world together and individually."

"The moment the two of us come together and it becomes Kinuk, it becomes this very ephemeral type of thing," says Johnson, "where it's happening right here, right now, and it's probably never going to happen again in that same way."

L'nuwesimk expands beyond voyeurism, also exploring the settler-colonial relationship. "That language has been spoken all of those points we're going to be at," says Johnson. "And I think it's important to know what's ours, and what's not ours."

"My ancestors haven't always been so respectful and receptive. The history of that violence and silencing as well, and acknowledging that. And here I am asking 'Will you teach me your language' and that's where some of the vulnerability comes in," says Parsons. "I get emotional talking about it because that's profound. Of course I want to be able to speak to my partner in her first language. But it's so loaded."

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Vol 26, No 29
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