Toronto culture festival admits to ‘internalising colonial systems’ after mishandling Indigenous-led art project.
As documented in a recent Toronto Star feature, the saga of the cancellation of Um of Water is nothing if not a national metaphor. Canada’s lack of access to clean safe drinking water on First Nations reserves is considered a violation of United Nations-recognised rights to water and sanitation. There are currently 34 long-term drinking advisories on reserves—some of which have been in place for over a quarter of a century. But a lack of government funding hinders attempts to improve the situation. The city of Toronto itself is bordered by Lake Ontario (Iroquois for “shining waters”), where Indigenous peoples have been “water-keepers” for thousands of years.
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Luminato Festival abruptly cancelled an exhibit by an Indigenous collective. Here’s the story behind the controversial decision. The “Um of Water,” a reimagining of British artist Amy Sharrocks’ Museum of Water, was an eagerly anticipated program that was to be part of Luminato 2022.
Two months after cancellation, the collective calls what happened at Luminato “disrespectful and unethical.” The artists describe a difficult rehearsal process marred by poor communication, lack of support and disrespect. They allege that although their invoices have been paid, not all affiliated artists’ fees have been paid in full.
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