Reframing Practices: Why Naming Matters

In mid-November, the Quebec Library Association (ABQLA) hosted a discussion on cataloging, classification and Indigenous Knowledges at Concordia’s Webster Library entitled “Reframing Practice: Why Naming Matters. As AbTeC begins to set up the database for the Aboriginal New Media Archive (discussed in an earlier post), issues regarding the classification and cataloging of Indigenous materials are pertinent to our project. This post summarizes the event in connection with AbTeC’s archives.

 

Recently, institutions and Indigenous communities have been developing protocols and strategies for institutions holding Indigenous materials. This, in part, is the result of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s call to action in 2015 which called upon “the federal government to undertake a “national review of archival policies and best practices” in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples.[1] The Committee on Indigenous Matters at Canada Federation of Library Association recommended library systems address “structural biases […] arising from colonialism […] [by] committing to integrating Indigenous epistemologies into cataloguing praxis and knowledge management.”[2] This recommendation was coupled with calls to “recognize and support indigenous cultures and knowledges,” “enhance opportunities for Indigenous library, archival and information professions” and implement “Indigenous Knowledge Protection protocols and agreements […] to respect the Indigenous cultural concept of copyright.”[3]

It is clear that Western systems of knowledge management do not adequately describe Indigenous archival materials. This inadequacy, as Hannah Buckland described in her presentation, is expressed in the Library of Congress’ subject headings. For example, the Library of Congress uses the subject “American Indian — folklore” to categorize Indigenous Peoples’ cultural knowledges and storytelling. The subject heading, as Buckland notes, reinforces the colonial mystification and mythologization of Indigenous peoples and their cultures. Descriptive metadata of this kind is not only inadequate, it is a form of colonial inscription that serves to legitimize and reinforce existing biases that, historically, repeat the troubling roots of archives as part of the dispossession of Indigenous’ cultures, land, and languages. Libraries and archives have a responsibility to address how their institutions are implicated in colonial histories and knowledges and pave a new path forward in which the support of Indigenous knowledges and cultures is prioritized.

Descriptive metadata, subject headings and the ways in which cultural knowledge is accessed and deployed need to be determined by and in consultation with the communities whose cultures and materials are being represented. Buckland, currently the Service Manager at Hennepin County Library and the former Director of Library Services at Leech Lake Tribal College in Minnesota, Buckland spoke about the need for librarians and archivists to use metadata as a form of microaggression to work against existing biases and power structures within library classification.

Indigenous librarians and archivists have implemented new cataloging and classification systems that reflect their cultures and communities. Presenters Camille Callison (Learning and Organizational Development Librarian at the University of Manitoba) and Annie Bosum (Library Technician at ᐋ ᑎᐹᑐᑖᒡ ᐋᓂᔅᒑᐅᑲᒥᒄ, Aanischaaukamikw, Cree Cultural Institute [http://creeculturalinstitute.ca] in Oujé-Bougoumou) shared their respective adaptations of the Brian Deer Classification System (BDCS) to develop a more accommodating system for nations across the continent and, in Bosum’s case, at a local level. The Cree Cultural Institute updated the BC-focused BDCS to include more Cree dialects. They also removed the provincial parent heading as a category for organizing dialects because dialects do not neatly correspond to regions.

 

 

Callison, on the other hand, is doing this work through her participation in the Canadian Federation of Libraries Association’s Indigenous Matters Committee, a committee formed to advance and implement meaningful reconciliation as addressed in the Truth and Reconciliation Final Report and in the Calls to Action. The committee developed the Indigenous Materials Classifications Scheme (IMCS), a system based on the BDCS that will eventually be free and online for libraries and archives to adopt!

The IMCS was employed by the National Film Board in their Indigenous Cinema online collection, a project developed in consultation with Callison. Katherine Kasirer, Librarian at the NFB, discussed the project’s development and the NFB’s history of Indigenous filmmaking and films with Indigenous content. Through the project, the collection’s one access point for Indigenous content expanded to include 18 Indigenous subject headings and a searchable index of nations organized from East to West rather than in alphabetical order. This organization is part of the IMCS, and one of the ways Indigenous epistemologies in archives are enriching researchers’ interpretations and experience of data. In this case, spatial knowledge is built into the system and offers another layer of information and exploration not provided by alphabetical ordering.

 

Dr. Kenneth Deer from the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake opened the morning’s discussions with Ohén:ton Kariwatéhkwen or Thanksgiving Address, the Haudenosaunee ceremony to bring our minds together as one and give thanks to the natural world. This process of beginning with words to guide intentional actions is a fitting way to begin discussions on how description and organization in cataloguing and classification practices give way to anti-colonial actions in which Indigenous cultures and knowledges are supported, not just in archives and libraries, but in the research projects they inspire, educational programming and their local communities.

The discussions that took place at “Reframing Practice: Why Naming Matters” will help guide our consideration of naming conventions and knowledge organization in AbTeC’s archives, and the eventual Aboriginal New Media Archive. As we head into a new year, 2019 will bring more archive team members and consultants to develop protocols for the archives and the launch of new public initiatives that promote Indigenous archives and archiving practices. Stay tuned!

Sources

[1] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, “Calls to Action,” 2015, accessed December 4, 2018. http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf

[2, 3] Indigenous Matters Committee, “Mandate,” accessed December 4, 2018. http://cfla-fcab.ca/en/about/committees/indigenous_matters_committee/

 

Darian Jacobs reviews Wao Kanaka, I ka Wā Mamua, i ka Wā Mahope

She:kon! The leaves are colourful and the autumn chill has embraced us here in Montreal.

The big project of summer 2018 was a second Skins workshop held in Hawai’i! The game Wao Kanaka, I ka Wā Mamua, i ka Wā Mahope, developed by Hawaiians attending the Skins Video Game Workshop, is completed and ready to be downloaded and shared. We here at AbTeC thought it would be fun to have me, a Skins 4.0 alumni, play and review this newest creation. As I have not had the joy of participating in the Hawaiian workshops I can also provide an outsiders view, so here we go!

The main menu of the game (with hidden interactive elements!) (Screenshot. Ka Lei Milikaʻa. 2018.)

Straight from the main menu the game is charming. The game’s audio is in ʻOlelo Hawaiʻi, but you can choose to view the subtitles in English as well. There is the option to choose between Adult and Child, but I didn’t find much difference between the two. The art style of the main game is endearing, with blocky shapes and polygonal surfaces. This was a smart move for creating characters and scenery as it is less difficult to make compared to smooth and rounded surfaces. By embracing this simple style players are more likely to be forgiving of anything strange, which is crucial when a game is being made on such a time crunch as the Skins workshops have.

The Skins 6.0 cohort, Ka Lei Milikaʻa, chose to have all the game’s dialogue in ʻolelo Hawaiʻi. (Cutscene still. Ka Lei Milikaʻa. 2018.)

The voice recording in this game as characters talk and sing is quite good; nice and clear. The music is fantastic as well, and the sound overall really ‘wowed’ me. In cutscenes, where story is being told, the videos are eye-catching and creative. The work put into trying to be informative and entertaining is apparent as the storytelling aspects are succinct and don’t run on too long where players may tune out.

One mini-game involves learning moʻolelo (chants) in ʻolelo Hawaiʻi. (Screenshot. Ka Lei Milikaʻa. 2018.)

The minigames are a mixed bag. After hearing moʻolelo, or chanting, a typing game is unlocked. The player must type in the words in the correct order before they run out of time. It was only in this game that I noticed a difference between selecting Adult or Child at the main menu. Adult seemed to have the words fall faster while Child gave slightly more breathing room. It is a challenging game that brings to mind dark memories of playing learn-to-type games in grade school. On the plus side I did end up paying much closer attention to the words of the chant.

In the second mini-game, the player learns about sustainable resource management. (Screenshot. Ka Lei Milikaʻa. 2018.)

Another minigame comes after learning a lesson about preservation; take one fish and leave one fish. I must admit that I wasn’t able to figure out how to ‘win’ this game. I pulled in my fish and sorted them based on the vocal reactions I heard, tried to split the type 50/50, and finally just did a general even split. I had no indication if I had done things correctly or not, just the stats of fish I caught and so I eventually gave up and moved on.

The final minigame was the hardest for me. The story told here is the most dense, and I would recommend watching it twice so you can appreciate the visuals and absorb the information better. The gameplay portion is no joke! The player is tasked with creating a route for water to flow from a start point, through as many farm plots as possible, and to the reservoir. You are given two path blocks to work with and they’re randomized. The game is not afraid to mess with you and give useless blocks over and over. I really feel like luck is a necessary component to win this one.

The player constructs an irrigation system in the third mini-game. (Screenshot. Ka Lei Milikaʻa. 2018.)

At the end of the day you return to your home to sleep, where an ending scene told me that I had done well, but not well enough. After multiple attempts I had to ultimately accept that I won’t be the savior of the world, however if you play and win please share with us! Tweet at us or post on our Facebook page so that we can congratulate the heroes of nature, or console those who couldn’t overcome the trials.

Regardless of if you win or lose, the game is bright and inviting with an optimistic tone despite the dire warnings. I would recommend giving it a go! Once you’re done you could also take a swing at any of the other Skins games available, all were made with passion.

imagineNATIVE 2018 Screening and Performance Reviews

Last month a number of our lab members travelled to the 19th imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto, ON to take in the proceedings and represent IIF/AbTeC. From a wide array of amazing events, Undergraduate Research Assistants Ray Tqoqweg Caplin, Kahentawaks Tiewishaw and Graduate Research Assistants Maize Longboat and Waylon Wilson each chose a screening or artist talk to report on.

Hope to see you next year at the 20th anniversary of the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival!

The Witching Hour

Friday, October 19

Ray Tqoqweg Caplin

This was my first time ever attending the ImagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival. Expecting to see various great works from many talented Indigenous filmmakers, I was indeed not disappointed. Throughout the festival, many screenings had an atmosphere of Fine Art and professionalism; this, combined with the many films I had seen talking about hard, depressing topics, left me with a sober, sombre mood. That is, until the campy yet devious Witching Hour.

Expecting an hour of exclusively spooky, cautionary tales, I was delighted to find campy, B-film, budget short films, each of which made me laugh out loud with the audience! I was particularly charmed by three machinima shorts of one to two minutes in length, the first of which was entitled First Impressions, by Sto:lo / Cree artist Andrew Genaille. In it, a woman is frightened at the sight of a zombie, who then addresses her assumptions that because he is dead, and a zombie, his place is in the ground, and that he is not a normal person. He proclaims that he is and thus educates her to not cast judgment on others so hastily. To say the least, it’s a subversion gag … and I loved it.

The Witching Hour was definitely one of my favourite screenings; its tricky, kitschy tone was a relief from other, more sombre films, which is fine by me. What’s more, I’m hoping to submit one of my short films to this film block next year!

Alanis Obomsawin: In Discussion

October 18, 2018

Maize Longboat

On the evening of Thursday, October 18, the legendary Abanaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin joined the festival program for an interview with Kerry Swanson, Chair of the imagineNATIVE Board of Directors. Obomsawin began by screening an excerpt from her forthcoming film, entitled Jordan’s Principle, that chronicles the story of Jordan River Anderson, a young Cree boy born in 1999 with complex medical needs. Jordan’s medical treatment was delayed because federal and provincial governments could not decide on who was responsible for paying and he eventually died in hospital at the age of five, having never lived in his family home. His story sparked policy and legal changes, namely Jordan’s Principle, which saw the federal government adopt a child-first policy to support children with disabilities in the future. As of 2016, Jordan’s Principle is now law in Canada, available to all First Nations children. However, these services remain difficult to access and Alanis Obomsawin’s film seeks to bring attention to Jordan’s story in hopes that it will help others in similar situations.

The discussion wasn’t only limited to talking about her films. For much of the second half of the session, Alanis told a story about her efforts to raise funds to create a pool for the children of her community, Odanak First Nation, before she began to make films. Since the nearby Québécois town would not allow Indigenous children to enter their pool, the only solution was that Odanak build its own. Through her hard work, determination, and help from others, Alanis was able to finally get the pool built. Ironically, when the neighbouring pool closed, Québécois children were welcomed to swim in the new pool at Odanak.

My main takeaways from Alanis Obomsawin’s interview were her wit and her generosity. She had the crowd laughing all the way through her stories, which she recounted in detail. Her strength as a person and as an issue-oriented filmmaker is profoundly inspiring and every bit deserving of the standing ovation she received at the conclusion of this discussion.

After The Apology

Saturday, October 20

Kahentawaks Tiewishaw

This screening included Lost Moccasin by Roger Boyer, Idle No More Ginger Cote, and Larissa Behrendt’s After the Apology. Together, these films brought to light the ongoing struggle of families who have been subjected to colonial government policies. In North America, we know of Residential Schools and the Sixties Scoop, which worked to assimilate Indigenous children by removing them from their families and culture. Similarly in Australia there were the Stolen Generations, in which Aboriginal children were unjustly taken from their homes and placed with white families or in Missions.

While various apologies have been issued for these atrocities by their respective governments, their efforts have not yet ceased. Still, Indigenous children in both North America and Australia are plucked from their families under the guise of ‘child protection’ by government agencies, which lack an understanding of the cultural and economic differences between our nations. Moreover, these agencies mistake systemic poverty for neglect, and remove children to be placed in homes deemed acceptable by colonial society. Though the films often reminded me of our inherited cultural traumas, they also reassure me that we are not alone on the path to recovery. They illustrate that Indigenous people everywhere are fighting the same battles, living the same realities, and are part of the same family. What I took away from these films is this: Colonial entities recognize that in family there is strength, which is why they tried so hard to disrupt ours. Imagine the empowering effects that would come from Indigenous people across the globe recognizing our greatest strength, each other!

Tectonic Shift

Thursday, October 18

Waylon Wilson

The Tectonic Shift screening addressed motifs such as Indigenous spiritualism, inter-generational sharing, death, relationships, survivance, and looking inward. The seven short films presented in this panel were a mix of fictional narrative and documentary, however most of these films were based on or at least inspired by true events.

The prominent shared theme of these narratives was the impactful practice of cultural and spiritual knowledge by the main characters. In Tama, a young Maori man practices and performs the Haka as a way to defend himself and his brother from an abusive relationship and alter the mind of their abuser, while in The Grave Digger of Kapu, an aging uncle teaches his nephew the spiritual significance and responsibility in digging graves for their community. In each of these spiritual short films, the characters exercise their new or existing spiritual knowledge as a way of externalizing their innate strength to make change within their relationships and community.  

In the discussion panel that followed, the artists and people involved in the production shared their interrelated experiences and inspirations behind making these films. Each held a direct reciprocal relationship to the communities portrayed on-screen and contextualized the importance of each film’s message to their community.

Archiving Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace

Archiving Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace

Floppy disks, hard drives, slides, CDs, tape-based videos, paper materials, photographs — these account for just some of the materials born from Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace’s twenty plus years of production both on and offline [fig. 1]. These materials give shape to extensive networks of Indigenous artistic creation and collaboration since the beginnings of media experimentation to today, and trace a history of media art with Indigenous makers at the centre. Today, they form the basis of the Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace archives and the  starting point for a much larger project: the Initiative for Indigenous Futures’ Aboriginal New Media Archive.

For the past six months, Mikhel Proulx, RA and PhD student and Art History Department faculty member, and I, research coordinator for AbTeC/IIF, have been sorting materials related to AbTeC’s activities—both in physical and born-digital formats—and sketching out possible ways of organizing and caring for them to ensure accessibility and long-term preservation. The ultimate goal is to develop an archive of the work of Indigenous new media artists, beginning with AbTeC, that is publicly available online but housed locally in the Indigenous Futures Cluster at the Milieux Institute at Concordia University. While there’s much work to be done, we’ve had a busy spring and summer laying the groundwork for the archive project that’s worth sharing!

Figure 2. A slide from our presentation at the Yale Center for British Art.

Is This Permanence: Preservation of Born-digital Artists’ Archives

This past spring, we attended the symposium “Is This Permanence: Preservation of Born-digital Artists’ Archives” hosted at the Yale Center for British Art [fig. 2]. We presented our project alongside archivists, technologists, and curators from major institutions in North America, who, like us, are grappling with the challenges of preserving a wide range of born-digital materials and, at the same time, making these materials, or at least aspects of them, available for public access and engagement. The strategies for preserving digital artist records addressed by these institutions were diverse and, at times, improvisatory as new challenges required new methods in an ever-changing digital landscape.

The Yale conference helped us to conceptualize our project in practical terms like workflow and structure, and to draft a working list of system requirements while we researched various applications for the archive. It also helped to confirm some things we were already doing! John Bell’s (Dartmouth) presentation on practices of digital archiving within online gaming communities was illuminating for its emphasis on community-specific metadata. A historian’s perspective on what information to preserve will be different from a programmer’s, or an artist’s, or a community member’s. Learning how different communities might interact with AbTeC’s archives and the connections between these communities is an important aspect of our project and one that will be further explored in conversation with IIF partners and project stakeholders.

Figure 3. Our panel at the “Is This Permanence?” symposium!

Artist and new media scholar Jon Ippolito delivered the final keynote “Your Archival Format Will Not Save you” in which he discussed the strategy of emulation as a viable means of preserving and experiencing web-based artworks in their original format. An emulator was used to reactivate CyberPowWow—the groundbreaking online chat room and virtual gallery of contemporary Indigenous art—for its presentation in AbTeC’s retrospective Filling in the Blank Spaces, discussed in an earlier post [fig. 3]. The keynote, and our own emulation strategies, emphasize the importance of contextualization (in our case, running CyberPowWow on the original computer program The Palace and through the original browser version) and activation over static and self-contained archival formats. We need for archival formats and archives that, as Ippolito states, “are expansive and creative enough to capture the vibrancy that makes the art of our era worth preserving in the first place.” This, and attending to the particularities of what makes this an Indigenous archive—not just in terms of content but how we build relationships between objects and entities and direct methods of engagement—steer our ongoing work in organizing the Aboriginal New Media Archive.

Figure 4. We used an emulator and old Mac monitor to recreate the experience of visiting CyberPowWow in The Palace!

Artefactual Systems Access to Memory Camp

These broader considerations inform how we determine our practical needs, such as which software to use for the organization and storage of archival descriptions and digital objects. This aspect of the project has been particularly challenging in light of the proliferation of content management systems and tools available, each with their own strengths and unique capabilities. However, we have narrowed our focus to one system created by Artefactual Systems.

Access to Memory (AtoM) is a web-based open-source application for standards-based archival content and a promising option for us to implement. It is easy to navigate, accepts a variety of file types, and is integrated with Archivematica, Artefactual’s digital preservation system. As an open-source software that employs a community-based development model, AtoM is sustained by collaboration, openness and generosity—aspects of research-creation that AbTeC privileges in our own activities.

Last month, Mikhel and I attended a 3-day training and information camp for professionals working with AtoM at Robarts Library in tkaronto/Toronto. We learned the nuts and bolts of the system from inputting archival descriptions to cleaning up messy data and importing in into AtoM. It was useful to see how the system could be used to map social relationships and complexities like nationhood and multiple languages latent in our data.

As this project moves forward, we will continue to demo AtoM and determine an appropriate archival structure that supports our various needs. Further discussions on Indigenous archives and Indigenizing archives with Indigenous archivists and librarians are needed to further flesh out the project’s potentials, in addition to understanding the needs and perspectives of the archive’s users and stakeholders.

A recorded version of Sara and Mikhel’s presentation at “Is This Permanence” is available online, starting at 51:30.

URL: https://britishart.yale.edu/symposium-permanence-preservation-born-digital-artists-archives

Introducing Graduate Research Assistant Waylon Wilson!

Waylon Wilson is from the Tuscarora Nation, Deer clan. Raised in the Nyučirhę’e (Tuscarora Nation Territory), Waylon’s culture and nationhood are a critical influence to his research as an experimental game developer, artist, designer, and scholar; to that end, he utilizes his lens as a Tuscarora man to address critical Indigenous and environmental issues.

He is a Master of Design student at Concordia University and recently graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies from University at Buffalo, majoring in production and Game Studies. He is a Co-coordinator and Media Instructor for the Indigenous youth program, Skarùrę’ Awękwehstá:θe:’.

Waylon’s media work centers on encoding critical Indigneous thought and perspectives into interactive forms of media towards education, both on- and off-screen.

You can find more information on Waylon and his portfolio here.

‘AbTeC Electronica’

 

AbTeC invades the continent with a strong showing at the Ars Electronica Festival!

You’ll have a number of opportunities to see the work of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC) and the Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) affiliates and to learn more about the community we are proud to foster.

First, we are delighted to have received an Honourable Mention in the Digital Communities category of the Prix Ars Electronica 2018! By creating links between Indigenous people, communities and organizations; bringing together Indigenous storytelling and cultural knowledge with new media; and supporting dialogues on Indigeneity, technology, and the future, we will help to build creative and caring communities. We thank the Prix Ars Electronica for this recognition.

On this note, we give our happiest congratulations to Undergraduate Research Assistant Lucas LaRochelle, whose community-generated counter-mapping project, Queering the Map, also received an Honourable Mention in the Digital Communities category. Queering The Map creates a map-based archive in which users can bear witness to “queer moments, memories and histories in relation to physical space”.

KITE (aka Suzanne Kite) is a Graduate Research Assistant, who is pursuing an Individualized PhD at Concordia. As part of the Hexagram Network’s Campus Ars Electronica group show, “Taking Care”, Suzanne will give three performances of her iterative, multimedia art work, Listener.  Developed from our Skins Seventh Generation Character Design Workshops, KITE thinks through embodied connection to technology and the land and Lakota ways of knowing.

Finally, Undergraduate Research Assistant Sam Bourgault collaborated with artist and Design and Computation Arts Masters student Augustina Isidori to create SOLA, which explores the tensions in walking at night in the context gender-based violence.  Sam collaborated as the project’s Unity Developer.

 

 

 

 

Click on the above links to find our more about AbTeC’s presence
at Ars Electronica 2018!

Post-production: playtesting and iteration

Here are some pictures from the post-production phase of He Au Hou 2 / Skins 6.0.

Right now, workshop participants and our team of Research Assistants are playtesting and iterating ‘Wao Kanaka, I ka wā ma mua, ka wā ma hope’, the game made by Ka Lei Milikaʻa, during our workshop at Hālau ‘Īnana in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi.

This means we are looking for and correcting glitches and bugs; fine-tuning animations and transitions; putting the final touches on visual and written content; and ensuring that the final game meets up with the vision of Ka Lei Milikaʻa, this year’s He Au Hou 2 cohort.

Check back for more news on the final version of the game in a few weeks!

Much love!

The Skins Crew

The menu page of ‘Wao Kanaka, I ka wā ma mua, ka wā ma hope’. The game’s audio is in ʻOlelo Hawaiʻi, but you can choose to view the subtitles in English as well!
‘Wao Kanaka, I ka wā ma mua, ka wā ma hope’ teaches players about the land, the future, and culture.
Your Tūtū (grandmother) explains the stakes.
The game is centred on moʻolelo, or chanting, and pays respect to Kānaka maoli writing and literature.
Through three levels and mini-games, the player uses cultural knowledge to heal the land.
We’ll be back soon with a completed version of ‘Wao Kanaka, I ka wā mamua, i ka wā mahope’!

 

 

Introducing Our Skins 6.0 Team, Part 2: The Old Guns

You’ve met the spring chickens, now face the old guns! You’ll recognize these seven faces from last year’s He Au Hou / Skins 5.0; they’re all returning as members of our Skins 6.0 team and we are ecstatic. See you soon!!! ♡

Credit: Prem Sooriyakumar. 2017.

Jason Edward Lewis

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

Co-director.

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

Storytelling. I love hearing the stories that the storytellers and participants bring into the room, the discussions about different variations in thestories and what they might mean, the thinking about what teachings the stories are trying to convey, and figuring out how to pull ingredients from them to work in the game.

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

I am looking forward to working with a new crew of participants. The Skins 5.0 participants were amazing, and this incoming class looks also amazing—but in different ways. I am looking forward to collaborating again with the Kamehameha Schools/Kanaeokana crew again, as we’re getting to know each other well and working more smoothly together because of it. I’m really looking forward to the game that they will make.

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

Explore the beaches with our boys. Give a couple of talks at local events. Catch up with the Skins 5.0 participants.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Feeling blessed!

Credit: Zoe Tennant. 2018.

Skawennati

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I am Co-Director of the Skins Workshops and am also one of the instructors. My area of expertise is transmediating Indigenous storytelling; basically, I translate oral tradition into movies and games.

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

I love it when the story emerges! We start the workshop with a community story-telling event, where invited storytellers share with us traditional and/or contemporary histories, legends and tales. Then we decide together on a story we want to tell through the game we’ll be making. Sometimes it is very challenging for the group to come to a consensus, but it always works out it the end.

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

We have refined our curriculum further, so this year I expect to have a smoother time in three most challenging segments of the workshop: deciding on a story, technical instruction and even production. Of course, work always expands to fill the time you have, so we shall see!

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

Jason and I will be giving a talk at Art in Hawai‘i’s conference at Boxjelly on Digital Futures. I also hope to hike Diamond Head with Nancy and to worship the ocean as much as possible. Hawai‘i is a beautiful, powerful place!

Is there anything you’d like to add?

A very exciting element about this year’s workshop is that there will be “alumni” from last year who will now be instructors-in-training. The Skins workshops need more instructors so that they can be delivered in more places, more often!

Nancy-Elizabeth Townsend

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I am proud to be reprising my role as Coordinator / Producer for Skins 6.0. I have been part of the Skins Workshop Series since its beginnings ten years back when I was a “mere” undergrad 3D-art instructor. It is an honor to be invited back and to witness firsthand how this unique workshop has grown and improved with every iteration.

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

In what I assume is a state unique to Producers, I personally flourish within the excitement-laced-stress of the final 3-day crunch. Game features are cut, added, and re-arranged to ensure a playable, beautiful monster of a project that we all birthed together. It is invigorating to witness and coach such a “miracle of life”!

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

At this point in my career, I have coordinated a dozen+ workshops and many game projects. If there is anything I have come to expect, it is not to be surprised by anything. Group projects are unavoidably messy and depend so strongly on individuals, team dynamics, the computer-crashing-Gods, even the weather can throw a development timeline off its rails. A successful workshop/production plan is a flexible one. I can only hope to expect that all participants glean some new cultural insights, technical skills and everyone leaves the workshop feeling empowered.

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

As anyone can tell you, being away from home for a whole month can be difficult, especially as a parent. I am fortunate enough to have both my mother and 3-year-old daughter join me in Honolulu this year, mid-way through the workshop. I look forward to them experiencing the island in a context beyond mere tourism – meeting the brilliant team from Kanaeokana I have had the honour of working alongside and witnessing the importance and significance of such projects.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I apologize in advance for the too-many Final Fantasy references.

Credit: Prem Sooriyakumar. 2017.

Owisokon Lahache

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I will be writing a daily blog highlighting the amazing events of the Skins Workshops as the days unfold as well as working alongside Noelani Arista as a cultural consultant / elder.

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

I love it when the participants arrive and the magic begins. My favourite part of the workshop is having the opportunity to share the experience writing about the development of their team, the experience, the passion for their learning all centred around Aloha culture is definitely a high point. It is truly  amazing to be a part of their camaraderie and honouring their ancestral knowledge with todays tools.

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

I expect to see a whirlwind flurry of activity from both the presenters and the participants. I believe the mentors and participants will reach the tipping point that will enable them to continue to create unique cultural pieces long after the session ends.

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

My husband will be joining me the first half of the workshop and I would like to spend some time with Tewenhni’tó:ken enjoying the land, ocean, and company of the Native Hawaiians. I would enjoy exploring, visiting the  Kanaka Maoli crafters and maybe do a little fishing too.

Credit: Prem Sooriyakumar. 2017.

Pippin Barr

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I’m at Skins 6.0 as an instructor for game design and prototyping, so I’ll be giving a few sessions about how to do practical game design. I’m also around as a game development generalist – I’ve made a lot of small videogames over the years and have picked up a bunch of different skills, including experience working with Unity, the game engine we’ll be using, programming in C#, and more!

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

It’s hard to pick out a single aspect of the workshop, because so much of it was so wonderful last year. Right at this moment I’d say it’s a tie between being immersed in Hawaiian culture, mo‘olelo, and aloha, and the production of the game itself in the final week, where we all get to work hard together and create something great!

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

If it’s anything like last year’s I’ll be really happy. Mostly I’m expecting to meet a new group of people with new ideas and relationships to the culture and the technology. As for what comes out of that… we’ll find out!

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

I’ll be going to Wailana Cofee House as soon as possible for the French toast with guava and the coconut syrup. Definitely want to get back to Bailey’s Antiques to check out the shirts there. Most of all I want to catch up with all the people from last year! I’ve missed seeing Nate, Rian, Vance, Maki‘ilei, Gonzo, Kēhau, and everyone else!

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Just can’t wait to be there!

Credit: Pippin Barr. 2018.

Rilla Khaled

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I’m the “assessment lead”. Basically, this means I am eyes and ears on how learning is taking place during the workshop.

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

Based on my experience last year, it was doing the wrap up interviews with the participants and seeing how far everyone had come individually in terms of confidence, knowledge, motivation, and having formed a community with each other. It was very moving.

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

From the Hawai‘i side, they will be as awesome as ever. I like to think that the Canadian team is coming back smarter, wiser, and with some tweaks to make the experience flow even better.

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

Many noodles will be eaten. Much sitting in the sun shall be done.

Credit: Prem Sooriyakumar. 2018.

Prem Sooriyakumar

What is your role in Skins 6.0?

I was the documentarian (photo and video) on a daily basis I would document ever aspect of the workshop using photography and videography!

What’s your favourite part of the entire workshop?

My favourite part was getting to know the participants on their journey to making the first Hawaiian video game!

What do you expect from this year’s version of Skins?

I expect to continue to expand my knowledge about Hawai‘i and the wonderful community that surrounds the workshop!

Do you have other plans for your time in Hawai‘i?

Yes, besides the wonderful people.. it is a unique place for food, i will be on a quest to try as many different places as possible.  And I will be going to all the various botanical gardens in O‘ahu.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Privileged and humbled to be part of the workshop again!!

Seven Generations Assemble! Skins Future Character Design Workshop with KSS

  • Location: Kahnawake Survival School, Kahnawake QC
  • Date: April – May 2018
  • Duration: 5 sessions of 2 hours
  • Facilitators: Skawennati, Jason Edward Lewis, Nancy Elizabeth Townsend, Dominick Meissner (Behaviour Interactive), Vivian Herzog (Behaviour Interactive), Kahentawaks Tiewishaw, Raymond Caplin, Maize Longboat

Overview: In five lessons over two months, nine students from the Kahnawake Survival School were asked to imagine their future descendants and design a character with paper and pencil to be printed as a 3D model. They were taught the basics of 3D modelling, UV maps and texturing 3D objects, and how to rig and pose their 3D characters. The workshop concluded with a showcase of their printed characters.

 

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The Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) and Kahnawake Survival School (KSS) just wrapped up a two-month long Skins Seventh Generation Character Design workshop with nine highschool youth from Kahnawake. This edition of the workshop was particularly special, as participants were not only able to conceptualize their seventh generation descendant using paper and pencil, but they also produced a digital model of their characters that was 3D printed into figurines that they could take home.

The workshops were organized by Owisokon Lahache, a teacher at KSS as well a long-time AbTeC collaborator and IIF partner. The workshop itself took place over three months (March-May 2018) at KSS with lessons held semi-weekly. Many IIF staff and research assistants were involved in organizing and instructing the workshop, including newcomers Kahentawaks Tiewishaw (3D Modelling/Posing) and Raymond Caplin (Texture/UV Maps). Ray and Kahentawaks were instrumental in writing and teaching the technical software to the participants.

Day 1 – Character Design for Videogames

The workshop kicked off in late March with presentations from Lead Creative Director Dominick Meissner and Lead Character Artist Vivian Herzog of the Montreal-based videogame company (and IIF partner) Behaviour Interactive. Dominick spoke about the iteration process that videogame characters regularly go through and showed character prototype designs for an upcoming Assassins Creed mobile game. Vivian showed her artist portfolio that contained gorgeous character portraits and spoke about her role as a character artist working at a videogame company. The workshop participants asked questions about what skills were needed to be a game developer and left the first day with an idea of what it would take for their character to transform from an idea to a printed figurine.

Day 2 – Seventh Generation Character Design

Our second meeting was when the work of imagining began! IIF Partnership Coordinator Skawennati and research assistant Maize Longboat lead a presentation about what the Seventh Generation Character Design workshop aims to achieve: to envision our descendants seven generations into the future and to make space for Indigenous presence in sci-fi. Participants were shown past character designs from the first edition of the workshop at Dechinta Bush University, as well as IIF research assistant Suzanne Kite’s sketches that informed the conceptualization of her multimedia performance art piece Listener. After the presentation participants got to work on their own characters and discussions of the future ensued. By the end of the drawing and sharing session everyone had an idea of who their character was, how they lived, what languages they spoke, and what their worlds looked like.

Day 3 – Intro to 3D Modelling and Blender

On the third day of the workshop participants finally got to work on their characters using Blender, a free open-source 3D modelling software. Kahentawaks spent the week in-between workshops creating a generic character model as a template for everyone to work from. First they learned the basics of how to manipulate vertices, edges, and faces to make unique shapes in Blender. They then practiced their skills by editing the proportions of the template character model and add one-of-a-kind features that they wanted their future characters to have.

Day 4 – Intro to UV Maps, Textures, and Photoshop

Ray took the unique character models that were created during the 3D modelling lesson from the previous lesson and layed their surfaces out flat to create UV maps for each character in the time leading up to day four of the workshop. UV maps are used during the texturing phase of character creation to turn a colourless character into one with detail and personality. The lesson began with an introduction to Photoshop and how its tools can be used to add surface detail to character models by painting and blending colours. Participants were given their character’s unique UV maps and began the work of colouring them in. As the day came to a close, Ray and Kahentawaks demonstrated how to take the UV map file and lay it over the model in Blender. Only one more step to go: posing!

Day 5 – Pose for Printing

Up until this point everyone’s characters were standing in a t-pose with their arms outstretched to the side and legs straight. Kahentawaks and Ray’s final lesson was dedicated to changing this by having the participants manipulate the virtual bones of the 3D character models in Blender. Posing can be particularly tricky to do when the characters’ limbs need to be in realistic positions while also being unique enough to show their personality. They also needed to fit on a circular figurine base to make sure that they would be able to stand without falling over.

And with that the working part of the workshop was over! The participants parted ways with digital versions of their characters and would see them again in their physical, 3D-printed forms very soon.

Showcase!

Two weeks later the characters born and nine perfectly shaped, coloured, and posed character figurines from seven generations in the future arrived in the mail from the 3D printing company! KSS organized a public showcase of the characters to celebrate the hard work of the participants and instructors. After folks mingled and viewed the characters, Owisokon welcomed everyone to the event and explained her motivation for initiating this workshop. Skawennati and IIF Primary Investigator Jason Edward Lewis then introduced themselves and the team involved in making sure the workshop was delivered successfully. The participants then introduced themselves and offered reflections on their creation process from start to finish, noting the value of doing the work of imagining their future Indigenous descendants.

It is important to note that Kahentawaks was a student in the very first Skins Workshop, which ran from September 2008 – to May 2009 at KSS. We are very excited that, ten years later, she has become an instructor for the newest generation of Indigenous artists and designers.

A big niawen:kowa to Owisokon Lahache and Kahnawake Survival School for your work in organizing and hosting this edition of the Skins Seventh Generation Character Design workshop.

Seven Generations assemble!

Introducing Our Skins 6.0 Team, Part 1: The Spring Chickens

With Skins 6.0 / He Au Hou 2 just around the corner, we wanted to introduce new members of our Skins family 🙂 These five, wily Research Assistants are coming to Hawaiʻi as instructors and as students. We’re so excited for you all to meet!

You can check out some of their work on our previous post, where they talk about “Call of Duty Free,” the Skins 6.0 test game!


Sam Bourgault

Hi, I am Sam. I will take care of the programming section of Skins 6.0 workshop, which includes lessons on Unity Game Engine and on coding using C# within that engine. I have taught Math and Physics classes before, but I always wanted to teach programming because you can do so much with it! I am looking forward to meeting the participants and learning about them and Hawaiian culture. I am also excited to spend more time with the great team AbTeC put together. Having visited Hawaiʻi for vacation two years ago, I will definitely go back to some unforgettable spots (the waves of Sandy Beach and Marukame Udon, a Japanese eatery on Kuhio avenue, are not to be missed!!) but I will also work on personal projects. I am sure the experience will be intense and challenging but also fun and mind-blowing. See you there soon (:

Ray Caplin

Greetings! My name is Ray Caplin, I am an independent animator and filmmaker, also an illustrator.  I am Mi’gmaq from Listuguj, located in Gaspésie and northern New Brunswick. My role in Skins 6.0 will be teaching the animated cinematic portions of the workshop, as well as anything having to do with 2D or 2.5D animation. Alongside that, I’ll support general illustration with Photoshop. I am excited to spark enthusiasm for the consumption and love for animation, to show how such a powerful storytelling tool can implemented into nearly any form of digital media. I hope to learn to become a better teacher, but alongside the students, learn about the many aspects of game development. Outside of the workshop, I look forward submerging myself in the rich culture, sample many foods and sights!

Victor Ivanov

Hello! My name’s Victor, and I’m a multidisciplinary designer and developer. My role during Skins 6.0 is focused around game design, level design, and audio production, with some involvement in the programming side of things.

This workshop has attracted me for a long time because games——especially games that tell stories–—have been at the forefront of my studies. I’m very excited about projects like this because they offer awesome opportunities for everyone, both participants and instructors, to learn and master technical skills.

And it goes without saying that the diverse set of perspectives we share will make for an incredibly enriching experience, both technically and culturally!

When it comes to matters outside the workshop, I’m super eager to try out the food. You haven’t really travelled if you haven’t tasted the food. Oh, and snorkelling! Not one after the other, though.

Maize Longboat

My name is Maize Longboat! I’m Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario. I’m an Assistant Producer and also a participant in Skins 6.0. Over the course of the workshop, I’m excited to learn about how narratives can be translated into game mechanics and I hope to learn about how Indigenous peoples express their Indigeneity through the creation of a videogame. When not in the workshop, I’m going to learn how to surf! Finally, I’d like to give my thanks for having the opportunity to participate in this workshop; it will be a great way to develop my Master’s research project.

Kahentawaks Tiewishaw

Hi! I’m Kahentawaks, a Mohawk and member of Kanehsatà:ke, and my role in Skins 6.0 will be teaching participants all things to do with 3D! I’ve had the opportunity to be an instructor in one other Skins workshop prior to this, and I am eager to build upon that experience. I was also a participant in the very first videogame workshop, Skins 1.0. The thing I am most looking forward to is meeting people from a culture that seems both similar and strikingly different to that of my own. I grew up in a very Mohawk traditionalist context, so I have heard MANY retellings of our culture’s stories. That being said, I am excited to hear some new ones, and to discover what we might learn from one another. Additionally, I plan to spend as much time as humanly possible outdoors, while also trying some local foods.