Reclaiming Indigenous sexuality with Virago Nation

Tue, Jan 22, 2019

To help better understand reconciliation, decolonization and indigenization when it comes to sexuality, Kwantlen Polytechnic University is hosting “Medicine in Our Very Bones: Gender, Sexuality and Embodied Resistance in Indigenous Burlesque”. The event series features Virago Nation, an Indigenous burlesque collective.

“The purpose of the event is to celebrate Indigenous arts — and particularly arts created by Indigenous women — and to prompt a deeper understanding of issues such as Indigenous representation, body sovereignty, and sexual identity,” says event organizer Jennifer Hardwick, a KPU English instructor.

Virago Nation seeks to reclaim Indigenous sexuality from the effects of colonization.

“From our perspective, reclaiming Indigenous sexuality means representing multifaceted expressions of sexuality that defy racist colonial stereotypes that promote violence against Indigenous women,” says Shane Sable, a member of Virago Nation.

“By participating in an art form that is inherently sexual and doing it with an explicit demonstration of free will, we dismantle notions that Indigenous sexuality doesn't belong to us.”

The event also aligns with KPU’s goal of indigenization.

“Increasing Indigenous participation is a key element of KPU’s new academic plan, and two primary goals are to enhance relationships with local Indigenous communities and to strengthen organizational structures to support current KPU Indigenous students and establish Indigenous learning communities,” says Diane Purvey, dean in the Faculty of Arts at KPU.

Hardwick adds that art is a good way to deal with that misinformation by introducing people to new information and ideas.

“I think there is a growing awareness at KPU and in Canada about Indigenous peoples, cultures, and histories, but there is still a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding out there — we have a long way to go,” says Hardwick.

Over the next year, there will be other events in the series, which will also feature Virago Nation. The series is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.  

The first event, “Medicine in Our Very Bones: An Evening of Indigenous Burlesque”, takes place January 24 at 7 p.m. at the Conference Centre at KPU Surrey. More information is available on the event Facebook page.