“My name is John Aitken; I did not speak until I was eighteen.”
Truth and healing in Indigenous communties are vast and vital topics explored through a highly personal lens in Coast Salish artist John Aitken’s The Gift: Transformation.
Aitken tells his story of survival, personal resilience, and reconciliation as he lived his childhood—nonverbally—using dance and movement, physical acting, vocalization, drumming, and singing. Sharing the stage with Aitken is acclaimed actor/director and filmmaker, Shelley MacDonald of North Vancouver.
Aitken and award-winning animation filmmaker Gail Noonan, developed this performance art piece over three years on Mayne Island. Aitken and MacDonald weave the story using a series of dream-like events drawing on Indigenous and European iconography and archetypes.
Aitken and MacDonald are part of a national movement of Indigenous actors, musicians, artists, and filmmakers using the arts to move through the trauma and history of systemic racism and abuse, and into healing and creating a pathway towards reconciliation.
An artist, activist, dancer, actor, filmmaker, educator, and storyteller, Aitken uses many mediums to advance the opportunity for intercultural dialogue.
Cultivate’s production of The Gift: Transformation concludes, like all of John’s performances, with a talking circle, where audience members are invited to stay and participate in the safe, structured environment to share their observations and discuss the emotions raised during the performance.
“The Gift invites its audience into a deeply emotional story of trauma but also of transformation and growth. This is a show for you to see.” —showbill.ca
“In the piece, Aitken offers insight into his personal journey towards finding his voice, all the while hoping to act as a bridge between indigenous and non-indigenous communities, as well as serve as a conduit to healing.” Erin McPhee, North Shore News
“It is powerful and moving, this dance without words. It is violent, and full of the threat of more violence. It is the sad story of a little boy growing up in a first-nations environment. It is beautifully done; it wrenches the heart.” Sheila Martindale, Monday Magazine.
Created by John Aitcken and Gail Noonan
Performed by John Aitken and Shelley MacDonald