Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Violent Encounter at the Winnipeg Folk Festival

For the past six months I haven't been comfortable with writing this blog. I’ve been posting occasionally, sharing information but I’ve left out most of my experiences this last half year. 

Documenting my personal experience from doing the Men’s Banner Project is really hard. That sucks because that’s the main goal of this blog. 

Since the folk festival, I’ve just kept myself going. Not wanting to give myself time to reflect. I’ve neglected being up to date in my activities.  
Anyway I hope to get past this by sharing.  

Saturday July 9, 2011 

I was at the end of the fourth day at folk fest. I had been standing in the sun the entire day covered in paint. I was tired but feeling really happy.  After putting away all my supplies I took off my Aboriginal dress and changed into regular summer clothes. 

The concert was just beginning at the main stage when I joined my mom at our tarp. I was really exhausted so I lay down in the middle of the tarp on a blanket.  I began to relax listening to the music when someone almost stepped on my head and then my leg. 

People sitting on a tarp near us kept walking back and forth across the middle of our tarp over top of me. Actually stepping on my hair right near my face.  I asked several times for them to walk on the grass beside us, which was the actual path for everybody.  I stopped one young woman from walking over top of me by sitting up and asking her to go around. 

This upset her father because he began plowing through the tarp saying they could walk wherever they wanted I had no right to this space. I sat up crossed legged thinking I’d be safer that way.

He came right through the middle, walking on our blankets, baby clothes, food and over top of me sitting up. I had to put my hand out to protect myself because he began to shove me to the ground.

Then he went to get a security guard to throw me out. He was mad I had touched his ankle when he had been pushing me to the ground, by grabbing my neck and shoulder.  It was bizarre; he told the security guard I had no right to the space I was sitting in. He said that over and over. 

The security guard was very nice and told the man to leave me alone. She told him to stop walking on me and my stuff and walk on the grass like everyone else.  She asked me if I was okay and said if he touched me again to get security right away.  After hearing this, the man turned to me and said some people think they’re so entitled!  He sat down at his tarp complaining loudly about me and my entitlement.

I didn’t understand that. I also didn’t understand why hundreds of other people all around me were allowed to sit and lie down on their tarps and blankets listening to the concert and I wasn’t. 

Right after that I left to go to my campsite. I didn’t feel safe to be there. I remember during my walk I couldn’t believe that actually happened. When I got to my tent I cried. 

I really have tried not to think about that. I couldn’t write about anything at folk fest because I didn’t want to have to think about what happened. It still upsets me.

The strange thing is I’ve had worse encounters than that. I had worse encounters at that folk festival. But what made it so upsetting was that I was just being me when it happened. 

When I do the Men’s Banner, it is a performance. It’s art.

I know talking about violence isn’t pleasant for anyone.  I know when I approach strange men to talk about violence and their particular behavior that I’m making myself vulnerable. So, each time I wear my Aboriginal outfit.  It represents my cultural identity and the missing and murdered women.  It's part of the overall presentation I’m doing at the time and it is my protection. 

I would like to think that when I took it off I was no longer putting myself in that vulnerable position.


Winnipeg Folk Festival 2011

July was a fantastic and busy month for me.  The Men's Banner Project was one of the Winnipeg Folk Festival's Campground Art and Animation projects. I created and exhibited a Men's Banner, a process that took place throughout the five days of the festival. 

I love folk fest and have been going every summer for most of my life. I always camp in the festival campground; it becomes an amazing tented village.  There’s always music being played and some form of art or animation happening all through the night.  It’s a beautiful experience. I thought it would be the perfect place to bring this idea of men acknowledging their peacefulness and their very powerful role in creating a non-violent world. I believe that folk fest has always had an undercurrent of solidarity, peacefulness, acceptance, tolerance, neighborliness beyond the sharing of good music and fun times.

Here are a few pictures highlighting the whole week.  

K. D. Lang Main Stage Performance

Festival Campground

Tipi Village in Festival Campground
Beautiful sunrise letting campers know they stayed up way too late