Debajehmujig Theatre Group

North America, Canada, Ontario
Art discipline: Theater, Film
Participated in ICAF in: 2011, 2014

"Ultimately, the intended impact of our work is to improve the quality of life for Native people in Canada, by nurturing postitive relationships between Aboriginal cultural communities and the rest of society. Specifically, to share our stories, our characters, our knowledge, our worldview, our fears, and our visions with the rest of the word, so that seven generations from now, when we are leaves, there is a greater level of respect among inhabitants of this land, more honour shown for our elders and our ancestors, and a better quality of life for our descendants.

This requires that we make a commitment every day to deepen our relationship with the storyteller within us. As keepers of stories, our very survival depends on it."
Joe Osawabine - artistic director

Debajehmujig was the first and remains the only professional theatre company located on an Indian Reserve in Canada. The organisation was founded by Shirlee Cheechoo, Blake Debassige and a group of like-minded colleagues in the summer of 1984 in West Bay (M'Chigeeng First Nation) Manitoulin Island, Ontario. In August of 1989, the company moved to Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, where it remains to this day.

It creates original work based on an Anishnaabag worldview and builds bridges between cultures, generations, and territories. It also supports the development of Aboriginal artists in remote rural areas as well as in the metropoles. Since 2009 it operates a new arts centre in downtown Manitowaning but it also continues to perform outdoors on site in the Holy Cross Mission Ruins on the reserve.

Reserve-based (community) work
The Debajehmujig Outreach programme began in 1997. Since then, the company has worked in over 50 First Nation localities in collaborative creations and training activities for youth. Residencies include a multi-arts approach to story creation and performance celebration, in partnership with local practising artists who remain in the community as mentors and potential creative partners once De-ba-jeh-mu-jig returns home to Manitoulin Island.

At ICAF-6 Debaj intends to roam the streets of Rotterdam in the days prior to the festival. Wearing traditional tribal dresses, they hope to engage with passers-by to gather local stories and storytellers, which they want to incorporate in daily updated versions of their ‘Global Savages’ performance.