How this Mi’kmaq artist uses storytelling to resurrect his culture

(Mi’kmaq artist Alan Syliboy gets ready to go onstage during a recent outdoor festival in Grand Pre, N.S. Credit: Angel Moore/APTN)

Alan Syliboy knows his Mi’kmaq culture needs to be protected. He has been sharing it for the past 40 years, hoping it will be carried on by future generations.

He has spent his life producing art and researching culture. He is a musician, a painter and an author. He uses film, music, canvas, and multi-media to share stories.

“There are a lot of important things that we need to rediscover, and a lot of positive things that we can gain from our culture and we should be proud of it,” said Syliboy.

And he thinks people are starting to listen.

His most recent performance was at an outdoor festival at Grand Pre, N.S., where he drummed as his colorful art was projected on the side of a church.

(The artwork of Alan Syliboy is projected onto a church during an outdoor festival in Grand Pre, N.S. Credit: Alan Syliboy’s Facebook page)

It was a storytelling piece, a collaboration of music and paintings. His band has been using art projections for almost a year.

Syliboy has many ways of reaching people.

“My children books in Mi’kmaq language, they learn a few words in Mi’kmaq and that is something new,” he said.

Syliboy is from Millbrook First Nation. He said the loss of his culture started with first contact with Europeans over 400 years ago and colonization. His personal mission was to study his culture and bring it back through storytelling.

Many children are familiar with Syliboy’s character Little Thunder, who teaches Mi’kmaq tradition. Syliboy hopes Little Thunder inspires children to tell their own stories.

“I wanted to be an Indigenous writer, but I want to be the continuation of storytelling. We always were that and now this is something I am just continuing, and I hope to see more and more storytelling.”

Syliboy said when he started his career in his teens, there was very little information about his culture. But since, there have been many people working a long time to bring back his culture.

He is excited about new artists carrying the torch. He believes Indigenous artists are starting to break down barriers to teach culture, values, and how to relate.

“I have heard (the Polaris-nominated musician) Jeremy Dutcher, and he is amazing. You have tremendous talent like that, and it is only good for all of us,” said Syliboy.

You can catch Syliboy and his band, the Thundermakers, along with his art projections at Nocturne Oct. 13 in Halifax.

Contribute Button