Co-hosted with writer and playwright from the Huron-Wendat nation, Guy Sioui Durand, this session unfolded differently from the first I attended, entitled “La langue de l’autre.” I was a bit intimidated to find myself in the presence of a very famous artist. As an emerging artist, I wanted to learn about the artistic methods that sustained his long and successful career, during which he created the first professional Indigenous theatre company in Québec. There were only three of us in this session. (In contrast, the Afro dance session with Zab Maboungou & Casimiro Nhussi was packed!) So we were quite a small group in the francophone room, but that wasn’t a problem—quite the contrary. We had a very calm and inspiring session, and we took the time to get to know each other. As a result, it was a refreshingly light exchange compared to the other workshops I attended during Primary Colours / Couleurs primaires. Our sole participant told us that she worked at the Canada Council for the Arts and wanted to learn the different ways of telling stories and the various strategies used by storytellers.
I liked the fact that we were able to share our different approaches to storytelling. Mr. Durand gave us a lot of insight into his work methods by describing his dramatic art practice. He often used the word “Action,” explaining how a transformative act can be used to conceal emotional information in a story. He talked about the importance of shamanism and how this type of spiritual manifestation remains at the heart of his practice. Artists are always searching for their own, authentic voice that can also reach others. At this point, our participant mentioned that she had come to our session specifically because she had attended the “Moving Images Showcase” evening where I had shared one of my films (Negotiations II). She wanted to know more about my creative process. Pleasantly surprised, I explained how I address the themes of nostalgia, identity, otherness, and memory in my works by intermingling memories and dreams. I use visual art—a symbolic language—to explore highly personal yet universal themes. I freely rearrange images to create a new cosmogony comprising various layers of information, a method that differs from the one described by Mr. Durand.
Mr. Durand ended our session by pointing out that one sometimes has to get lost in order to find or (re)discover oneself. We all agreed that artists are storytellers and that our role is to ask questions, delve deep, reformulate and then tell our stories.
All in all, a very enriching exchange.
Translated by Don Sugden, reviewed by Breanna Fabbro
Anna Binta Diallo is a visual artist who investigates memory and nostalgia to create unexpected narratives surrounding identity. Born in Senegal and raised in Manitoba, she’s currently based in Montreal. Her work has been exhibited at La Maison des Artistes Francophones, Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, Art Gallery of Alberta, MOCA Tapei, and featured in numerous publications. In 2016, Diallo exhibited "palimpseste," at MAI (Montréal), which weaved together collage, painting, prints, drawing, and audiovisual installations.