“As Indigenous artists the land is our archive, and our embodied relationship to the land defines Indigenous identities, history, science, cosmology, literature - and our performance.”
I am the third generation of four generations of Indigenous performing artists in my family. From my Guna grandfather performing in Side Shows during the Great Depression of the 19308, to my mother, a founding member of New York's Spiderwoman Theater, to my son, a member of the Juno Award winning A Tribe Called Red - the arts and performing has been our life and our livelihood.
My process in creating performances adheres to Indigenous cultural and ceremonial protocols and requires what I call "embodied research": the playwright/performers walk on, touch, feel, smell, and absorb the stories, rhythms and elements in the land. This is followed by and recreated through embodied "writing," including in-studio work in "deep improvisation" involving both text and movement integrated with an evolving design, music and sound, and the revelation of humour. This corporeal creation is deeply embedded in the body and connected to the deep, ancestral cultural memories of the creator/performers. It privileges Indigenous aesthetic principals throughout and is dedicated to sourcing Indigenous cultural forms. It uses emerging techniques and ground breaking trans-Indigenous dramaturgies while continuing to explore embodiment in the recovery of Indigenous Knowledge.
This ongoing reclamation of historical memory and cultural translating continues with my artist-driven collective's work-in-progress, Side Show Freaks & Circus Injuns co-written with Choctaw playwright, LeAnne Howe. The structure for this site-specific performance is based on the effigy mounds and earthworks that are aligned in multiple ways across Turtle Island. The Moundbuilder principles we are transposing are: duration, alignment and frequency, convergence and integration. The embodied research into the literary structure of earthworks (as a dramaturgical framework) is part of my long-term artistic pursuit of developing Indigenous dramaturgies. It also solidifies the location of Indigenous performance principles at the centre of my artistic practice.
Through these theatrical investigations, I practice the embodiment of place. As Indigenous artists the land is our archive, and our embodied relationship to the land defines Indigenous identities, history, science, cosmology, literature - and our performance.
Monique Mojica (Guna and Rappahannock nations) is an actor and playwright living in Toronto.