The Bridge. Le Pont. Soqasuwakon.
Last Friday, the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge in downtown Fredericton welcomed artists from across the province as they explored different perspectives on what it means to be Canadian.
The outdoor gallery was a Canada 150 project aimed to address the many questions, debates and emotions that have arisen around this milestone through various forms of media.
According to Lisa Anne Ross, Solo Chicken Productions’ artistic producer, the Bridge Project is “a walk through time meant to help us question who we are, where we come from and to use that information to help us work together to discover where we can go.”
Starting the walk on Fredericton’s north side, the bridge featured 54 stations, which showcased Wolastoqiyik, English and French perspectives, as well as themes of queer identity, immigration and aging.
At the outset, two arguing performers discuss the bridge’s significance to the community; although they disagree throughout the performance, actors Miguel Roy and Brennan Garnett, respectively from Theatre St. Thomas and Next Folding Theatre Company, agreed that the Bridge Project is a big history lesson with art to accompany it.
“The scale of the Bridge Project is way bigger than I thought it was going to be. There are just so many cool art pieces. The whole Fredericton community just came together and said ‘hell yes, let’s do this.’ It’s amazing. I love it,” said Roy, as Garnett nodded.
At the centre of the bridge, Amanda Reid, a Wolastoqiyik jingle dress dancer, invited people to sprinkle tobacco into the river after carrying out smudging and dancing ceremonies.
“I get [everybody who is participating or watching] to think about the vital role that the river plays in their everyday life and to make an offering,” she said.
Eleven stations further, Jolyne Roy, Solo Chicken Productions staff and sociology PhD candidate at the University of New Brunswick, stood next to a glass box containing a laptop.
The laptop played a small scale version of MALA, the multimedia presentation that projected the history of New Brunswick on legislature last summer.
Roy said the goal was to show how First Nations, English and French speaking New Brunswickers can come together and build the province they want today. Since the last projection was on New Brunswick Day, they wanted to find a way for the project to live on, so MALA was brought to the bridge through a computer screen.
“We are showing this tonight because we want people to realize that you don’t necessarily need to speak the same language to be able to share stories through art,” Roy said.
Two stations down, a Spanish-language song tells about a flock of swallows leaving home as six masked performers help each other put on coats and carry suitcases.
Roxana Cardenas and Natalia Solano, UNB and STU international students from Cuba and Colombia, were part of the performance titled “Querencia,” which means “the place where one feels safe.”
“We are trying to represent what immigrants go through when they move to Canada, what they left behind and how sometimes it is difficult to leave home,” said Solano.
But according to Cardenas, they also wanted to show how the support of other new immigrants and Canadians make adapting easier.
The last stop on the bridge featured children with homemade cameras that “photographed” the audience and created portraits with color markers, with the hope of slowing down time and shifting the audience’s focus to the present—allowing all in attendance the opportunity reflect on how they’ll take the Bridge Project’s lessons into tomorrow.