By Bob Shields
In a beautiful example of music uniting people across cultures, languages, generations and geography, earlier this year, Mohawk College students collaborated with Indigenous artists in the Musical Sharing cultural engagement and exchange initiative.
What emerged was an innovative blueprint for learning, relational justice, and strength-based, decolonized reconciliation. Coordinated by Bob Shields, advised by Dr. Johanne McCarthy, and with the support of the Indigenous Education department, Musical Sharing enabled participants to share cultural ideas and to come together through music. In contrast to the routine focus on the economic value of creativity, the initiative began by elevating music’s social capacity, rooted in the ethics of care, trust, responsibility, and respect.
Next, participants met as equals, free to embrace opportunities to lead, follow, teach, and learn through experience, to collaborate without the horizon of expectation. These sessions between students, Anishinaabe singer-songwriter Rick McLean, and the Six Nations Women Singers occurred both at the college and Six Nations.
Finally, the initiative featured a public event, during which Indigenous cultural diversity and new friendships were celebrated through sharing music and discussing experiences. Mohawk broadcasting, graphic design, and journalism students also participated in the project. Significantly, Musical Sharing increases student agency and critical citizenship, providing direct access to multiplicities of knowledge, which can inform independent decision-making and actions.
It affirms that culture and creativity resist reduction; a sustainable worldview is one comprised of many voices. In future iterations, the initiative aims to expand to involve more creative vehicles, Indigenous artists, college programs, schools and communities. Stay tuned!