Adäka Cultural Festival Comes Back Into The Light—Renewed and International

The Adäka Cultural Festival returns with the light of many suns, in full swing and in person this year! From June 29 to July 5, the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre, on the banks of the Chū Nįį Kwän (the Yukon River) in Whitehorse, will hum with the energy of all of the festival offerings and the spirit of gathering. 

For the unfamiliar, Adäka Cultural Festival is a jewel of northern culture: “a celebration of Indigenous arts and culture that brings us together, shining light on a stunning range of traditional and contemporary visual and performing artists.” Combined with the activities and attendees of international cultural gathering, the Arctic Summit this year—Adäka is celebrating 10 festival years with gusto. And after two years without a gathering, there’s a lot of anticipation.

“We are beyond excited to welcome circumpolar guests, as we gather, after a challenging two years, to honour our artists and cultures,” said Katie Johnson, Adäka Cultural Festival’s co-producer. “Together we will deepen our northern relationships, celebrate our resiliency and spirit and warm the hearts of our peoples.”

Johnson reflected, “Adäka means ‘coming into the light’ in the Southern Tutchone language. This time, after the heartbreak of canceling for two years, it’s as though we’re all coming back into the light.” 

With an absolutely jam-packed festival program ahead, Johnson is looking forward to “the opportunity for us to share the diversity of who we are, to start conversations with people, to really deepen our connections and inspire the next generation.” 

This year, Adäka will showcase artists from across Canada’s North; and guest artists from other circumpolar countries including the USA (Alaska), Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Finland. Over 200 visual and performing artists will gather to showcase their arts, music and cultures. The festival takes pride in hosting a rich program full of collaborative opportunities for cultural exchange, sharing and learning.

“We’re encouraging all Yukoners to just drop by often. There’s going to be something happening every single day,” said Johnson. “We are also always looking for volunteers, and there are great benefits to volunteering.” You can check out volunteer opportunities on the Adäka website: www.adakafestival.ca

Volunteering this year means you might make international friends! As mentioned, the 2022 festival is aligned with the third Arctic Arts Summit (Whitehorse, June 27–29, arcticartssummit.ca). Adäka promoter Pixie Ingram said, “The partnership between these two events will create a vibrant, timely and relevant cultural and artistic exchange between artists and cultural leaders from across the Circumpolar North, with guest artists from countries including the USA (Alaska), Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland.” 

With seven days and over 60 hours of performances and presentations, two stages are required! At Adäka 2022, there will be one stage in the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre (KDCC) Long House; and the Taga Shäw Riverside Stage, inside a tent along the Yukon River. 

Many events and performances are free. Visit the Adäka (www.adakafestival.ca) to access the beautiful, 40-page festival program, which includes all the details on artists, presenters, workshops, the gallery and shop, performances, the full schedule and a full listing of the hundreds of performing artists, knowledge keepers and presenters.

Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre always shines, as the annual home for the Adäka Cultural Festival. Of KDCC, the iconic gathering space and cultural symbol, Adäka organizers reflected, “We are proud to have the magnificent Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre as the home for the festival: this cedar-clad, traditionally inspired building features a stunning view of the Yukon River, towering clay cliffs and surrounding mountains.” 

Johnson offered, “First Nations advocated and sparked conversations around reclaiming culture and revitalizing culture alongside the Land Claims negotiation. It just was like planting the seeds—almost like our Elders were planting the seeds for this type of gathering.” She added, “These gatherings are platforms for conversations between artists and performers and craft, and the multi-layers of all of these practices.” 

And nothing says multi-layers like the complex arts of regalia and fashion! The Dà Ze Tsàn (From Our Hearts) Fashion Show is produced as part of the closing of Adäka, every other year. This year, the fashion show is co-produced by Skaydu.û Jules and Chantal Rondeau, who are focused on showing whole collections presented in a fabulous two-hour showcase. Northern Indigenous designers (from across the Yukon, Nunavut, Alaska and the Northwest Territories) will share works on the catwalk. This is a ticketed event with special performances: get your Dà Ze Tsàn Fashion Show tickets early. They are available online. 

Skaydu.û Jules, Dà Ze Tsàn co-producer said, “Euphoric beauty is the theme of this year’s fashion show,” and with this announcement, she glowed. When asked what inspires her about Indigenous fashion, Jules responded, “Personally, it was always growing up and being a part of my mom’s traditional practices. She always worked with moosehides. For me, being able to see it from start to finish, going from when we were out on the land, hunting and honouring the moose, that gave us life. Being able to process and tan that hide and be[ing] able to create something out of it—it really upheld our identity and who we are, and where we come from.” 

And more creation is certainly afoot. For example, there is a special presentation at the Yukon Arts Centre, on June 26, of a new multimedia performance, Dreaming Roots, which is co-directed by Diyet van Lieshout and Alejandro Ronceria, with a collaborative team, guided by knowledge keepers in a culturally grounded process. This live performance involves the work of over 50 Yukon Indigenous artists in dance, music, drumming, theatre and storytelling in traditional and contemporary forms, to create a multi-layered experience. Dreaming Roots is a ticketed event. Find tickets at yukontickets.com

Co-director Diyet van Lieshout said, “Dreaming Roots is about how we see ourselves in the present, how we connect with our past and how we dream of our future as Yukon First Nations people. This show explores questions such as: Where do we come from? How do we connect to the source? How do we reconcile and heal? What are our hopes and dreams?”

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