They had diverse performances, they had a conference, they had a play, and finally last Saturday, March 16, UFV’s Valley Fest concluded with a finale jam-packed with food, art, music, and dance. The event somehow transformed the Abbotsford campus cafeteria space into a polished banquet hall and vivacious venue space.
Before the evening’s proceedings, organizers took a moment to acknowledge the event took place on the traditional unceded territory of the Stó:l? territory, and thanked the College of Arts and the vice-provost’s office for providing funding.
For a festival, which celebrated everything great about creativity in the Fraser Valley, it seemed very fitting that its conclusion included several performances from some of the Valley’s best creative individuals.
The first performer to take the stage that night was Carrielynn Victor, an artist fueled by the passion to leave positive footprints on the earth. Victor presented two thought-provoking, texture-rich photographs mounted on canvas. The pieces are part of a body of work made for the RezErect: Native Erotica exhibition at the Bill Reid Art Gallery in Vancouver in 2013. They remained present beside the event stage all evening.
Victor is from the Indigenous community of Cheam. She spent her time on stage telling the story of the mountain people of Cheam, which captured the audience’s attention. She also spoke of her right to interpret the story for herself. Her interpretation is present within the artwork she presented, and carries themes of gender politics and sexual positivity.
Next to the stage was Theresa Warbus, who goes by Keliya onstage. Warbus is a local artist and hip-hop persona who draws from her Coast Salish heritage. In addition to her music career, Warbus is a filmmaker and a mom, and carries many titles. Warbus was first inspired to pursue hip-hop when she witnessed other successful women in that community.
Warbus’ set inspired participation and movement within the audience. In between tracks she took a moment to thank organizers of Valley Fest for bringing so many people together for such a successful cultural event.
“I think this is something that is really unique. We really need this in the Valley. More exhibition of culture, talent, and traditional stories about the people that live here in this traditional territory,” said Warbus. “I haven’t had many opportunities to come home and perform, so this is really amazing.”
Warbus’s music video for her song “Take Us” will debut on social media this April. You can follow her on SoundCloud as Keliya and on Instagram @tkeliya.
Last but certainly not least, Robert Wiersema claimed his time onstage. Wiersema is UFV’s current writer in residence, and is the best-selling author of the novel Before I Woke, Bedtime Story and four other books. He has also been published in the Globe and Mail and The Inquirer. He was born and raised right here in the Fraser Valley before moving to Victoria, where he is now an English professor at Vancouver Island University.
Wiersema read a captivating passage from Bedtime Story before releasing his audience to the “pleasures of dinner,” and also took a moment to describe his gratitude for the opportunity to be UFV’s writer in residence.
“This has been a powerful and life-changing experience both as a artist and as a person,” Wiersema said.
Following a scrumptious dinner provided by Stó:l? Catering, DJ Kookum, also known as Cheyanna Kootenhayoo, livened things up for finale attendees. Kootenhayoo is a Dene/Cree filmmaker and DJ. She is a member of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, and is based out of Vancouver. Her set was accompanied by colourful examples of Indigenous dance, which provided a fantastic finish to the night.
Organizing events like Valley Fest, where participation is key, can be difficult given that UFV is a commuter campus. Thus, it is very rewarding to see students and staff take part in community-related events. Ultimately, Valley Fest showcased our diversity as a university, and its finale set the pace for future on-campus multicultural events to come.
Image: The Cascade