A new surge of aboriginal talent is cresting across the country, following in the wake of icons such as playwright Thompson Highway, actor Graham Green, and singer Buffy Sainte-Marie.
Waawaate Fobister, a 25-year-old Anishnaabe artist from Grassy Narrows First Nation, swept the Dora Awards earlier this month with his debut play Agokwe.
The play scooped statuettes for outstanding production, new play, performance by a male principal, director, costume designer and lighting designer.
The one-man show, staged at Buddies in Bad Times theatre last year, focused on the attraction between two teenage Aboriginal boys.
Fobister, a traditional dancer, seamlessly played each character including the boys (one a hockey player, the other a grass dancer), an alcoholic mother and a flamboyant narrator.
“I always talk about what’s important to me, which is my language, heritage and culture. It is not my goal to educate people, but they can get a taste of it in some of my work,” explained Fobister in an interview from Big Grassy, where he teaches youth theatre and dance.
Here is a look at other artists who are leading the crest:
â€¢ Crystal Shawanda, a bluesy country singer from Wikwemikong reservation on Manitoulin Island, has been taking the radio waves by storm since she released her debut album Dawn of a New Day last year.
It reached No. 2 and 16 on the country music charts in Canada and the U.S., respectively.
Shawanda cleaned up at the 2008 Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, winning five awards including Best Album of the Year.
This weekend she plays the Mother Earth Festival on Georgina Island and on Aug. 20 she is at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.
â€¢ Since collaborating with Icelandic artist Bjork in 2004, Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq Gillis has been hypnotizing audiences internationally.
The Nunavut singer has performed with Kronos Quartet and Scottish fusion band Shooglenifty.
She has won a total of four Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards and her recent album Auk/Blood was nominated for a Juno award this year.
On Aug. 22, she performs at Toronto’s Planet IndigenUs Festival at Harbourfront Centre.
â€¢ Kevin Loring, a member of the Niaka’pmux First Nation in Lytton, B.C., premiered his first play, Where the Blood Mixes, at the Luminato festival in Toronto last year.
It will be performed in Vancouver at the Firehall Arts Centre during the 2010 Olympics.
Loring, also an actor, appeared in Hosanna at the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the film Pathfinder. He is the Playwright-in-Residence at the National Arts Centre for 2009-10.
â€¢ At age 37, Adam Beach has garnered more than 50 movie and TV credits. The Saulteaux actor, born on the Dog Creek reserve in Manitoba, starred in the films Flags of Our Fathers, Windtalkers, Smoke Singles and the made-for-TV movie Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
He was also Detective Chester Lake on 21 episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit from 2007 through 2008.