Wolastoqiyik artist Natalie Sappier shares her story with a new production

A new production written and composed by Wolastoqiyik artist Natalie Sappier is hitting a Winnipeg stage.

Finding Wolastoq Voice is a story of one young woman’s journey of awakening and transformation and using the voices of her ancestors to find her own.

“It’s about how do we carry our teachings in the fast, growing modern world,” said Sappier.

Sappier, who is from Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, has spent years working as a painter and musician.

Recently she yearned for a new way to share her community’s stories.

“I wanted the audience to feel that emotion,” said Sappier. “That hunger for our language. That hunger to carry these teachings.”

(Natalie Sappier is from the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick. Photo: Brittany Hobson/APTN)

Finding Wolastoq Voice opened at Theatre New Brunswick in March 2018.

The piece uses dance, theatre and music to portray the young woman’s journey.

It’s based off of Sappier’s own life experiences.

She said the process has allowed her to heal from some of the traumas she’s experienced but she still gets emotional when she watches the production.

“It touches base on a lot of really tough stuff. It talks about suicide, it talks about drug addiction, alcohol, sexual abuse, domestic abuse,” she said.

“These stories have to be shared because these things are still happening.”

Sappier worked with Indigenous artists including Aria Evans and Andy Moro to bring the production to life.

Evans, whose bio says she is of Mi’kmaq, African, settler heritage,  is a dancer based in Toronto and plays the main character.

Moro, who is Cree, designed the set, which features a round platform surrounded by rocks, water and sand.

Much of the character’s journey is connected to water.

Wolastoq is the traditional name of the river Sappier grew up near.

For Sappier, it was important to work with other Indigenous artists to help elevate their work.

“My goal is to help bring those stories to life at home,” she said. “To help those dancers and musicians…bring those stories to life.”

“That’s my dream.”

Finding Wolastoq Voice runs until Mar. 31 at the Prairie Theatre Exchange.

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