Indigenous and Migrant Embodied Cartographies: Mapping the Inter-relations of the Odeimin Runners Club.

Presenters: Debbie Ebanks Schlums, Adrian Kahgee, and Rebeka Tabobondung
Registration Number: 045
Institution: York University and MUSKRAT Magazine, Toronto, Canada
Abstract: The Odeimin Runners Club is a new Indigenous and Black-Persons-of-Colour (BPOC) media collective creating an online story map using an open-source satellite mapping platform. By tracing activities and connections in our engagements with each other and our communities, our counter-mapping project re-traces trade and ceremonial routes between the north of Turtle Island and the Caribbean archipelago, linking stories, videos and artworks to traditional territories. Our objective in this first project phase is to make short films using Bolex film cameras and process cinema methodologies that incorporate plants and organic materials in film processing. The short films are themed on human survival, land connection, rematriation, and BIPOC counter-mapping as a means to thread our knowledges and stories together as we visit each other’s territories in order to connect and share traditional wisdom that imparts important knowledge and strength to help navigate current political and environmental instabilities facing our communities. As a collective of Ogimaakwe—women warriors, Indigenous and Caribbean—we have rejected a decolonial framework. Beyond the “decolonization is a metaphor” critique outlined by Tuck and Yang (2012), we argue that decolonization inherently embeds failure because it is premised on the one hand, on a defeated peoples, and on the other, on achieving or restoring a way of living, working and being in the world prior to colonization. Instead, we propose an a-colonial approach based on odeimin teachings. Odeimin means heartberry, or strawberry, and it grows and thrives by sending out runners, creating a networked lattice of relations between individual plants. These plants are a metaphor for individuals and communities—one cannot survive disconnected from relations with each other. A framework of Odeimin Teachings converges with what Eades and Zheng (2016) refer to as a “resisting practice,” with the ethos of Marcus Garvey’s self-reliant philosophy and strategy. This a-colonial framework resists oppressive capitalist systems while taking a different path: one outside of colonialism’s hegemonic frameworks. This project shows contemporary relations on a continuum rather than as “new encounters,” outside the language of discovery and within a concept of time immemorial, activating and re-activating the long ties between Indigenous communities, between Black and Indigenous peoples on the mainland and between the islands and the mainlands. This is not to discount the contested position of immigrants as settlers on the territory, but to say that we can build a different relationship outside of a white colonizing paradigm, one that might be less attached to ownership of land. The purpose of this project is to ground our cultural identities in the land of northern and rural Ontario—land that has been dispossessed through colonization by which Indigenous and Black POC’s histories were buried or made invisible as if we did not belong.

Bio: Debbie Ebanks Schlums
Debbie Ebanks Schlums is an art-researcher, PhD student and Vanier Scholar in Cinema and Media Studies at York University. Her research explores methodologies of Caribbean diasporic archiving in the Jamaican Diaspora through storytelling and media installation. Debbie is a recipient of the Susan Crocker and John Hunkin Scholarship in the Fine Arts, and Canada Council for the Arts and Ontario Arts Council grants. She was a founding member of the Out of a War Zone and To Lemon Hill Collectives, both addressing the Syrian refugee crisis. She is a former Co-Director of the Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film and Co-Producer of Saugeen Takes on Film.

Bio: Adrian Kahgee
Adrian Kahgee, (Saugeen First Nation), founding member of Odeimin Runner’s Club, is an artist and Community Arts Educator, currently teaching Visual Arts and Indigenous Studies, with the Bluewater District School Board. She is former Co-Artistic Director and Community Co-ordinator for the Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film. Adrian is Co-Producer of Saugeen Takes on Film, a community-based film program working with artisans, youth and knowledge keepers from her community. Her current artistic practices, of painting, performance activated installations and film, are centered around continuous research, exploration, and sharing of familial and communal knowledge, on our existence upon Turtle Island since time immemorial. Her work has been featured at Creemore Festival of the Arts, Reel World Film Festival, imagineNATIVE, FADO, ANDPVA and CBC Radio.

Bio: Rebeka Tabobondung
Media and story creator Rebeka Tabobondung is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of MUSKRAT, a leading digital Indigenous arts and culture magazine established in 2010. Rebeka is also a filmmaker, writer, poet, and Indigenous knowledge researcher with a strong body of work focused on Indigenous birth knowledge. Since 2017, Rebeka has been working as a creator, researcher, and writer with award winning Montreal based Rezolution Pictures, who along with APTN are partners in the Spirit of Birth web series and interactive Spirit of Birth mobile App and digital platform. In 2011, Rebeka produced and directed the short doc, Spirit of Birth in partnership with the National Screen Institute, which screened across Canada and internationally. Rebeka’s written works are published in numerous books, journals, and anthologies.