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Map of the Land, Map of the Stars helps us go forward

Photo credit: Bruce Barrett

Gwaandak Theatre’s Map of the Land, Map of the Stars helps us go forward
Written by Co-Director Yvette Nolan.

The work of Map of the Land, Map of the Stars is very much like the work we as Canadian and First Nation inhabitants must do in order to go forward into the next 150 years.

In the beginning, we sat together, Canadian and First Nations artists, and talked about what stories compelled us, what histories we knew, and what histories we wanted to unearth and examine more closely. Every artist who participated in the creation of the play brought their knowledge and teachings and ancestors into the room. Some of us brought in just hints of histories, stories we knew only parts of, like the blind men feeling different parts of the elephant, not being able to imagine the whole, but being fascinated by this one part I could feel: this serpentine trunk, this leathery ear. Together we mined the stories, filled in each other’s blanks, went out looking for more parts to fill in the gaps.

We are not all the same, but we agree to some basic conventions in the room: we will listen to each other, we will hear each other, we will try to move together for a while, we will learn things from each other. We will attempt to learn each other’s languages, be they song or dance, English or French or Tlingit. We will attempt to orient ourselves using each other’s guideposts, using each other’s positions, each other’s maps, whether they are within, below us, or above our heads.

In this way do we go forward. Not just the artists who came into the room to make this work, but (we hope) all the people who inhabit this land that is currently called Canada. 

Photo credit: Bruce Barrett


Gwaandak Theatre’s Map of the Land, Map of the Stars reminds us to listen to our bodies
Written by Co-Director Michelle Olson.

What is history? Society tells us what is significant and this creates a dominant narrative filled with events and dates that become our history. This becomes the textbooks for our schools, the news casts for our evenings, the slogan for our tourist campaign. The dominant narrative is what we begin to accept as our personal and cultural history.

But what do our bodies have to say? If we delve into our physical selves, we delve into a collection of experiences, stories, desires and emotions that have been gifted to us from our ancestors. Stories stir and resonate inside our blood and bones and yearn to be remembered through shape and form, movement and song, story and text. Like an archeological site, our rehearsal room is a place where we hone in on places to be dug up, sifted through, and brushed off to find the stories that have been forgotten, not acknowledged, hidden and waiting to be rediscovered. It is through shaping and moving our bodies and minds that these impressions, stories and emotions surface and to our surprise (or not) they are in stark contrast to the dominant narrative.

Map of the Land, Map of the Stars is sourced from our bodies. Our body map connects story and emotion to place and time and we create a map that embraces all that we are individually and collectively.

Talking Stick Festival presents Gwaandak Theatre‘s The Map of the Land, The Map of the Stars on February 20-22, 2018 at the Roundhouse. Get your tickets hereScreen Shot 2015-09-12 at 10.17.41 AM


Yvette Nolan is playwright, director and dramaturg. Plays include BLADE, Annie Mae’s Movement, The Unplugging. Directing credits include Bearing (Signal), The Piano Teacher (Arts Club), The Ecstasy of Rita Joe (NAC/WCTC). Her book Medicine Shows, about Indigenous performance, was published in 2015. She is an artistic associate with Signal Theatre.


Michelle Olson is a member of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation (Yukon) and the Artistic Director of Raven Spirit Dance. Michelle works in areas of dance and theatre as a choreographer, performer and movement coach and her work has been seen on stages across Canada.