Tuesday, 06 October 2015 18:38

Change The World

Change Your Words You Can Change The World

An Artist Residency is one of my favourite things in the world. It gives me the opportunity to spend quality time in a school investing in the lives of the students and staff. This week I got to work with 360 students to produce a multi media production called, Change The World/Change le Monde.

Words like ‘madhouse’ ‘bedlam’ and ‘creative chaos’ were used on several occasions and some of the more ‘senior staff’ were captured on video covering their ears in a desperate attempt to muffle the deafening cheers. (Though smiles tugged suspiciously at the corners of their mouths at the same time)

The Plan…produce a digital media project that celebrated the community life of the school, highlighting themes like social responsibility and leadership and really set the tone for the school year. When I arrived Monday morning, I was given a schedule that looked like a piece of homework that maybe the dog actually should have eaten. Teacher’s names were scribbled and scrawled…some were crossed out and redirected with curved double-ended arrows indicating a reshuffling of exotic ingredients in some madcap creative recipe. I kid…it showed me immediately that the staff were engaged and accommodating to making this plan work for everyone. Cooperation is key to success!

Day One…I spent the first day dashing from room to room, interviewing all the students. What words did they use to describe their school, their class, teacher and friends? I asked them for personal stories of how someone had made their life better, and how they had made someone else’s life better and wrote it all down.

I compiled word banks and created a cache of stories from these interviews. A big colourful sign in the hallway that said, ‘Change Your Words, Change Your Mindset’ really caught my eye. (and imagination) At the end of Day One I sat down and channeled all the inspiration to write a song called, Change the World.

Day Two…bright and early I was once again scampering through the hallways, drifting in and out of classrooms like a wandering minstrel, teaching the new song to each class. In between rehearsals we worked out visual components of our project. Central is a French Immersion school, so language is a big part of their identity. ARTS posters are pinned on every wall spelling out the school’s community values. Acceptance/Accepter, Respect/Respecter, Together/Tous, Security/Sécurité.

Plans emerged for each classroom make giant, colourful posters that spelled out these words. It was a tactile way for the kids to engage with the words that express the values that create a safe, encouraging environment that foster their hopes and dreams.

 

We covered a huge area in one hallway with paper, creating a ‘School Wall’ where students could write personal iMessages like, ‘I feel safe here’ ‘I respect my friends.’ In the brilliant words of one little dude, ‘this is the most awesomeist graffiti ever!’

I explored the wild side of the playground with my camera, capturing the kid’s energy and enthusiasm in their natural habitat. When you’re in elementary school, the playground is where the real work of respect, acceptance and togetherness is done.

I also found time to marvel that at some point in my life I too had been able to swing on monkey bars without pulling my limbs from their sockets.                        (those days are long past)

Day Three…flew by in a blur of filming, drawing, colouring and rehearsing as I raced from the highest room in the tallest tower to the deep dark recesses of Central’s WWII era basement. I’m not going to lie, 360 kids keep you hopping. One of things I love about being a facilitator is the energy builds exponentially because everyone is able to be involved in a way that plays to their strengths. I’m not the horse or the wagon…I’m just the wild guy with the guitar having the time of his life playing a melody that lets us sing together at ear-bleeding levels.

Day Four…the momentum continued to build through the day, coming to a deafening ‘world changing’ crescendo at the assembly in the gym, where the mood was electric and the kids sang so loud it felt like an AC/DC concert.

I set up my portable recording gear, set a stationary camera at the back of the room and gave my handheld to a volunteer and we proceeded to record and film the song three different times. Watching the footage close to a gazillion times as I edited the video, I was blown away by the power of community and creativity to change our lives and the world around us.

I love being part of a great story and happily offer my 18 years of experience as a professional writer, performer and producer in the music, TV and film industry to each school to help students discover their talents, gifts and abilities so they can tell their story in ways they haven’t before. If this is something that would interest your school or community, you are 100% free (and encouraged) to contact me anytime!  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

It is a privilege to be able to invest in the lives of others.
Merci Beaucoup…Change le Monde!

 

Published in Tour Stories
Wednesday, 05 November 2014 03:53

Student Filmmaking Projects

I teach a variety of workshops in schools. For a recent multi media video project, I asked two classes with 25 kids in each, to tell the story of their school through visual storytelling.

They brainstormed and came up with different elements that make up the life of their school. The mascot, band, breakfast program, recycling, etc.

VIDEO ONE

They spent two days creating storyboards and shot lists for a lip dub video. Then they matched their individual skill sets, gifts and interests with the skills required to complete the project. They decided who would be actors, directors, camera operators, etc.

VIDEO TWO

We had one 45 minute class each day over the week to produce these video. On the Friday afternoon at the end of the week, the school organized an assembly for all the students, and we had an official screening of the films the students made. This allowed the other students to see themselves on the screen, and for the whole school to celebrate their creativity.

Movie Trailers

I spent the following week in a middle school working with 4 different classes ranging from grade 7-9. I divided each class of 30 students into 5 separate film crews. Each group had to decide what type of film trailer they wanted to make. (horror, comedy, adventure, etc)

After deciding on the type of story, they worked out a storyboard and shot list. Then it was their turn to match their individual skill set with the skills needed to complete the project. One person may like to be in front of the camera, but the next person would hate it. But that person might like to operate the camera. Together they figured out who would write the script, who would direct and edit.

We didn't have a lot of time. We spent the first two 45 minute classes (Mon & Tue) in pre production, getting the story, the script and shot list, and the following two days, (Wed & Thur) filming and editing. On Thursday night, we had a free community concert that featured the 8 trailers and a collection of slam poets I had also worked with through the week.

Abandoned - Trailer

These projects develop media literacy and the fundamentals of storytelling and composition. They require students to identify their unique talents and abilities and then match those to the project. They learn to recognize how their strengths and weaknesses provide opportunities to work with others who are skilled differently.

One of the main strengths of this project is that we create an environment where every student can play to their strengths so that the entire group can have a 'win'. It's great for team building and setting a tone for creative exploration and development. I offer this workshop to teachers and adults in other professional settings as well.

 

Contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 250 896 2572 to book a residency in your school or community.

Published in Tour Stories
Wednesday, 04 September 2013 16:08

Empowering Youth

 

For 15 years Tribe of One has been working with teachers, administrators and countless organizations to empower and inspire students in communities across North America. Our multi cultural performance workshops allow students to see and hear how First Nations, Metis, French/English and South American indigenous cultures compliment and inspire each other. It's one thing to talk about multi culturalism...it's another to see it in action!

Tribe of One features musicians, dancers, painters and slam poets, providing schools and communities with the highest levels of professional arts and culture instruction and opportunities. Immediately following our presentation students get to choose from a variety of break out sessions where they have the opportunity for hands on instruction in, hoop dancing and capoeira, painting, slam poetry, multi media storytelling, photography, filmmaking, songwriting and textile arts.

If you work in schools, community development, youth programming or know someone who does, please pass our information on to them and encourage them to contact us. Tribe of One is a national artist collective and represents the combined passion, energy and excitement of Canada's leading cultural innovators.

Contact:

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it - 250 896 2572

 

Published in Tour Stories
Thursday, 16 May 2013 16:47

UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESC0) is one of 18 specialized agencies within the United Nations System. It was established on November 16, 1945, as much of the world was emerging from the devastation of the Second World War.

UNESCO was formed to embody a culture of peace by promoting collaboration among nations through education, the sciences, culture, and communication and information. With an incredible 68 year history, it's sometimes surprising how many people have never heard of the organization and don't really know what they do.

As a national artist collective who fuse the rich heritage of indigenous cultures through modern forms of artistic expression to educate, empower audiences while they are entertained, Tribe of One is perfectly suited to appreciate the value of UNESCOs goals and objectives. It is those shared values that makes our partnership so dynamic.

"Humanity's most valuable assets have been the non-conformists. Were it not for the nonconformists, he who refuses to be satisfied to go along with the continuance of things as they are, and insists upon attempting to find new ways of bettering things, the world would have known little progress indeed." Josiah Gitt.

In today's globalized new world culture, recognizing the value of our diversity and differences, and finding creative and innovative ways to build our future together has never been more important. This was Tribe of One's initial point of connection with UNESCO and one we are very proud to celebrate in this video.

 

By Rik Leaf - Recording Artist, TV Host/Producer, Slam Poet & Published Author, Rik is the founder of Tribe of One, a national artist collective that fuses the rich heritage of indigenous cultures with modern forms of artistic expression. Featuring First Nations, Metis, French, English and Brazilian musicians, dancers, painters and poets.

Published in Tour Stories
Wednesday, 27 March 2013 17:39

The Other

A lot of people look at life through an, ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ lens. For these people, the first and most important step is determining who are the good guys, (that would be Us) and who are the bad guys, (that would be Them) Over the years I’ve discovered this is why I never really felt like I fit anywhere…cause I felt like I fit everywhere.

This way of looking at the world transcends every political distinction, religious conviction and sexual orientation. The Right do it, the Left do it, Christians do it, the LGTB do, so do Muslims, Eastern mystics and hedonists…everyone does it.

I grew up in a small conservative prairie town that was kind of like a hydroponic grow op for the Religious Right. Religion has spawned more ‘Us’s’ & ‘Them’s’ than you could swing a scepter of frankincense at. Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, Brethren, Methodists, Pentecostals, Baptists, United, Presbyterians. Wikipedia says there are 41,000 Christian denominations, which is fascinating when you know that these 41,000 different beliefs come from people reading the same book.

Of course a country like Canada has a history steeped in this sort of thing. We’ve been fed a steady diet of Anglophones vs. Francophones, British vs. French, Immigrants vs. Indigenous, Protestant vs. Catholic and East vs. West since our inception.

Anyway…one day I grew up and ran from the Right and threw my lot in with the Left. Only to find the exact same thing in a diametrically opposed juxtaposition where ‘Us’ was now ‘Them’ and ‘Them’ were now ‘Us.’ But fundamentally…nothing had changed; it was still good guys and bad guys. If this isn’t the problem, it sure isn’t the answer.

A few years later my professional and personal life were entwined with the LGTB community. Oh the sweet naiveté of my youth when I thought gays were immune to this sort of thing! Until I tried to navigate the world of Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Transvestite, Two-Spirit, Pansexual, Polyamorous, Asexual, Omnisexual, and in case by some act of god you still didn’t feel represented there were the catch all categories, Other and Ally. Certainly a far cry from 41,000 distinct sexual orientations…but give it time and who knows!

These experiences can leave you feeling like you’re a first year student at Hogwarts and the Sorting Hat is determining whose side you’re on and where you fit in the grand scheme of the grand scheme. Everything is a fight and everyone’s flailing about and it’s just a matter of time until you hit or get hit.

My whole life I’ve been searching for a different way of looking at the world…one that acknowledges the Other. The Other who believes differently than me. The Other whose sexual identity or culture or experience is different than my own. The Other who holds an integral piece to the puzzle without whom, I can never see the whole picture. When we lose our connection to the Other, we start to fear them and eventually act on those fears. We lose our connection to how closely we’re tied together.

I initially found what I was looking for when Tribe of One grew into a multi-cultural melting pot of inter disciplinary awesomeness and artistry. The First Nations and Métis cultures inherently acknowledge and welcome Other ways of knowing, Other ways of living, Other ways of believing and behaving. Every sacred ceremony, pow wow, rally or feast I’ve been to all start by acknowledging, honoring and welcoming the Other.

To be honest, the part of the Idle No More that’s struck me as most colonial has been the ‘US’ and ‘Them’ mindset that’s framed the conversations with Colonist, Colonizer, Squatter, Settler, Canadian, Guest, Newcomer and Ally vs. Indigenous, Aboriginal, Indian, Native, Métis, Inuit and First Nations. Let’s face it, the way we describe ourselves usually defines what we believe we are capable of.

When we lose our ability to see and feel our connection to the Other, we become detached and believe their struggle and suffering has nothing to do with ‘US.’ The biggest challenges we face right now are man made; we got ourselves into this mess, we can get ourselves out, but only by all of ‘US’ working together.

Published in Tour Stories
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 22:25

Idle No More - The Power of Story

 

Idle No More is the movement of the moment. For some it’s a movement they’ve waited their whole lives to see, and for others it’s something that has come out of the blue without warning. For my part I’m excited, because this is an amazing opportunity for the Power of Story to change how we see ourselves and the world around us.

The Story of Canada is the narrative used to explain how we got to where we are today. It’s a powerful Story that’s been used for hundreds of years to explain away the excuses and abuses of power and position. A story full of misdirection, half-truths and outright lies…and it’s starting to unravel. That’s one of the reasons I’m excited…the unraveling of the Story of Canada is an exciting opportunity for storytellers to be Idle No More.

While preachers feverishly preach their version of the truth to the converted and politicians dutifully tow the official party line and corporations desperately cling to outdated business-as-usual solutions, storytellers are free. Free to use the full measure of creativity to tell a new Story…one that can slip in between the cracks of a crumbling façade and let the light fill hearts and minds.

Cause we didn’t just get to where we are by accident. The rampant racism, bigotry, inequality and abuses of power are all part of the Story we were told. The Story that taught settlers how to see indigenous communities and visa versa, the Story told to children, reinforced by parents who repeated what they’d been taught in schools, universities and boardrooms. So while preachers, teachers, politicians and big business certainly have a responsibility and a part to play, Idle No More needs great storytellers to use their creative talents and abilities to engage, empower and educate this country. Storytellers work with the palette of possibilities and have the ability to empower individuals to imagine ways they can be active participants in making the world a better place.

Idle No More is an opportunity to write a new Story, a better one, more generous, honest and true…one that will change the world.

Rik Leaf is the Creative Director for Tribe of One, a performance collective featuring English, French, First Nations and Metis musicians, dancers, painters and poets who fuse the rich heritage of indigenous culture with modern forms of artistic expression.

Published in Tour Stories
Thursday, 10 January 2013 22:49

Producing A Great Event!

 

If you’re planning a special event what you’re really doing is telling a story. Doesn’t matter if it’s a protest march or if you’re celebrating or commemorating something or someone…you’re telling a story. Telling a great story is an art form, and so is producing a great event.

What’s the Point? What is the most important thing you want to say or see happen? Keep it simple and concise. Do you want to educate people? Do you want to call them to action? What action? Figuring out what you want to say will help you figure out how to best say it.

Who is your Audience?
Is it the ‘Choir?’ If the choir is your target audience then preaching the ABC’s of your message is a waste of your time and effort cause the choir is already converted. This is a classic storytelling blunder because you feel like you’re really accomplishing something. People are screaming their agreement as you recite your ABCs, but ultimately everyone goes away with nothing more than what they arrived with. How can you take your core audience deeper and really engage their talents, gifts and abilities, or add levels of engagement to what they’re already doing?
Is your audience the uninformed or unengaged viewer listening to the radio or watching on TV? If so you need to grab their attention and make them see and feel how they are part of the story you’re telling.
Are you ultimately focused on a politician, political party or corporation? In my humble opinion, it is criminally bad storytelling and ultimately a gigantic waste of everyone’s time to gather outside the Legislature and preach the ABCs to the choir and hope it’s going to affect change at the political level. Know who you’re trying to reach and tell your story accordingly.

Characters
Who is the protagonist? What is the quest? What are the obstacles the protagonist will need to overcome? Who is the antagonist standing in the way? Asking these fundamental questions will lead to a great event because you will have a framework that serves your storytelling.

Producing a great event means telling a great story. Asking the right questions will ensure that you engage, empower or entertain your target audience and accomplish the goals you initially set out to achieve.

Rik Leaf is a Producer/Performer specializing in multi cultural artist extravaganzas. He has worked on numerous productions including Beauty and the Beast, Rent, Whose Line is it Anyway, Aerosmith, Shania Twain, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tribe of One.

Published in Tour Stories
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 16:34

Discover 'Hope' Indigenous New World Music

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Discover 'Hope' and the sound of indigenous new world music!

Published in Homepage
Thursday, 15 November 2012 05:33

A Journey of Discovery

The Journey of Discovery is an opportunity for Aboriginal and non Aboriginal students to come together in an exciting, creative environment that encourages risk taking and mutual respect. The facilitators enjoy working with community services to tailor the material to target key issues and existing programs.

A Journey of Discovery
is presented by a collective of indigenous artists from across Canada who lead students through a series of creative and cultural workshops. Combining traditional songs, stories, dance and regalia with modern forms of artistic expression students explore our shared past and the common ground we can build on as we face the future together.

Students can experience,

  • singing around a pow wow drum
  • beading and regalia making
  • learning traditional dances
  • discovering the meaning behind the traditions, stories and songs the excitement of taking creative risks
  • exploring forms of artistic expression and cultural heritage (slam poetry and song writing)
  • working collectively to produce a short film

The Journey of Discovery explores self-confidence, courage, healthy choices, creativity, community and risk taking and can be presented as a one day cultural performance workshop series, ideally suited as a multi cultural component for conferences, seminars and assemblies. We also offer the series of workshops and presentations over several days leading up to a mini pow wow, where the visual art created decorates the space, dancers wear the regalia they made as they perform with drummers and singers. This can be an incredible investment into the creativity of a community.

About the Facilitators:

Rob Spade is an Anishinabe artist-educator from Fort Hope First Nation. Rob brings years of experience delivering cultural education, counseling and support, cultural sensitivity training, cultural-arts-based therapy and guidance to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children, youth, and adults. He is a gifted and accomplished storyteller, dancer, drummer, singer, and visual artist influenced by the Ojibwe Woodlands Style.

Celeste Pedri is a proud Anishinabe-qwe from Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation. Celeste is currently an active member of the indigenous academic community as she is completing her PhD of Philosophy (Anthropology) at the University of Victoria. She is an accomplished Ojibwe artist (beadwork, regalia, drummer) and is currently the artist-in-residence at the University of Victoria’s Centre for Religion and Spirituality in Society.

Rik Leaf is from the Red River Valley region of southern Manitoba. He is a professional recording artist, TV producer, author and the founder of the Canadian performance collective, Tribe of One, featuring French, English, First Nations and Métis musicians, dancers, painters and poets. Rik has drafted pilot projects for the Foreign Affairs Department, traveled to war-torn countries with the United Nations and provided cultural educational programming to over 20 First Nations communities from coast to coast across Canada.

Published in Tour Stories
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