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Jamii's 2nd Annual Children's Festival
300 guests enjoyed a mesmerizing parkour through
the Berkeley Castle & Berkeley Theatre,
and discovered a series of delightful performances
for children of all ages.
August 19 - 21, 2021 // The Esplanade
In partnership with Canadian Stage and Berkeley Theatre
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An artistic footprint for Esplanadian families to encounter 

Written by Sharon Zarita

22nd Aug, 2021

"Wayo, a children’s festival produced and presented by Jamii, was the ultimate compensation for all the live art children and young audiences have been deprived off lately. The three day festival gave attendees an intimate multi-arts experience through a journey of performances at Berkeley Castle and Canadian Stage’s Berkeley Theatre.

 

Curated to reflect its Swahili meaning of footprint, eight stages with different groups of artists awaited to gift the attending families a lasting creative mark for the summer. At each stage, the attendees had three minutes of a solo performance, and thereafter engaged by ring masters in an informative post-show analysis. Empty lawns, parking lots, staircases, building corners were all designed and utilised as COVID-safe outdoor stages.

Attendees were invited to the parkour by the bleating sounds of CORPUS “Les moutons” sheep. The children look on as a shepherd strolls by the shed to feed the sheep and are left to their own imagination in this display of real life characters in theatrical costumes. “I think that one is a person because he has a beard,” a 5 year old whispers to the dad who challenges her guess with a reminder that goats have beards too. 

 

Next they are ushered to a henna booth for a culturally inspired keepsake on their palms. Each child gets to pick a design and while it’s being drawn they are informed on the origin of henna. As the henna dries up, a soft violin tune begins to play in the background which they can’t resist but follow it. The violinist, Saraphina Violin, is joined by lollipop lyra performers Aelxandra Legendre and Eman Hillawi, whose snake-skin costumes in a calming blue hue make the children gasp. Here, they come in close proximity with artistic elements like sounds, movement, set up, wardrobe - and are able to internalize it all without distractions often found in crowds when this performance happens on large platforms. As it ends two sets of claps fill the empty lawn, and even though the artists are used to a more fulsome standing ovation the looks on their faces say this personal performance was just as delightful."

Photos: Jae Yang

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"If a dollar was donated for every time a child mentioned the next stage as their favourite Jamii would already be planning next year’s festival. They participate in a giraffe trivia show by Kristi Heath, then are tasked with a toss game to put a ring around the giraffe’s neck. It rebirths zoo experiences they love and have missed.

The next three performances happen in the Berkeley Theatre, starting with a powerful percussion and opera duet in the Baillie Theatre by Jonelle Sills, Sergio Xocolate and Suzanne Roberts Smith. At an outdoor corner naturally decorated with a wall plant, they engage with a flamenco dance by Carmen Romero, accompanied by cellist George Crotty. They are offered a toy bird needing a home to take care of. Afterwards, they get to dance and sing along to West African beats and chants of Lua Shayenne and Cécé Haba. As each family takes their turn to be front row guests to these performances, one cannot help but appreciate how the festival has introduced the community to artistic spaces within the neighbourhood that are inaccessible to some.

 

The festival wraps up with a ride on Kisanii Hub, Jamii’s mobile theatre. It cycles around the empty Canadian Stage parking lot, celebrating how this experience has enabled young audiences to experience and enjoy live arts within a COVID world. On their way out, they choose a book to take home from a collection of BIPOC authors. Tayaa, 10 years and Nazaree, 12 years both pick “Amina’s Voice” saying it feels like the girl with curly hair on the cover was calling to them. The two applaud the festival for combining different cultural genres and art forms making them feel like they were on an art tour around the world. Parents in attendance appreciated how this will have a positive effect in the creative development of the children.

 

For the second year, Jamii has successfully offered the arts in a palatable and personal way to young audiences at Wayo Festival. Huge appreciation to them for this much-needed artistic experience. If you missed it, follow @JamiiEsplanade on social media for snippets of the performances. Join the backbone of this festival whose support makes the festival free and open to all, donate at www.jamii.ca/donate."

Sharon Zarita is a Kenyan arts administrator at Lakeshore Arts and Editor-in-Chief of Sekoya Magazine, the premier East African crafts and culture publication.

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Photos: Jae Yang

FEATURED ARTISTS:

LUA SHAYENNE weaves stories, through dance, song and word. Her art practice is embedded in her African roots and her Faith. Her goal is to “effect a spiritual conquest” by establishing a relation with the human hearts and create original, inspiring and relevant art. Lua is the artistic director of Dora nominated, Lua Shayenne Dance Company (LSDC) and is currently creating WAVES | VAGUES and FRONTIERS | FRONTIÈRES for the company. She is part of Lars Jan’s (NYC/LA) HOLOSCENES (Toronto/ Florida/ Miami/ New York/ London,UK/ Abu Dhabi/ Australia tours), a multidisciplinary water installation on climate change. Lua will premiere her tale, YASSAMA and The Beaded Calabash, with support from the WeeFestival and le Théâtre Français de Toronto, May 2022.

CÉCÉ HABA hails from Guinea, W. Africa. His passion for percussion (djembe and dundun) led him to study the traditional rhythms of his culture. He has performed with Lua Shayenne Dance Company at Dusk Dances, City of Toronto’s Canada Day, Centre Canadien pour l’unité de la famille, La Maison, Jamii and more. He is the musician and composer of a new multi-disciplinary children’s work, Yassama and the Beaded Calabash, co-developed by Wee Festival and Théâtre Français de Toronto, premiering in 2022. Cécé accompanies dance classes for artists such as Pulga Muchochoma, Newton Moraes and Lua Shayenne.

CORPUS:  Co-founded by Sylvie Bouchard and artistic director David Danzon, CORPUS is known for its precise and surrealist humour that combines movement with theatrical imagery.

CORPUS’ unique and engaging performances are presented in both traditional and unusual locations for large and diverse audiences. Created in 1997, CORPUS now has 14 pieces in its repertoire and has presented over 2000 performances at venues and events across Canada and around the world in 34 countries on five continents.

"Les moutons" by CORPUS:  Reality meets fantasy in this wordless live installation that recreates a bucolic country scene in a typical urban setting. Travel to a strange & hilarious universe as CORPUS takes you through a carefully studied, surrealistic overview of sheep behaviour. Programmed in more than 100 festivals in over 25 countries, Les moutons continues to amaze audiences all over the world. 

SARAPHINA VIOLIN:  Saraphina is a well-known acoustic and electric violinist who performs around the world. She has opened for Kendrick Lamar, Usher, Gwen Stefani, and Diana Ross to name a few. Saraphina violin's most recent performances include NBA halftime shows for the San Francisco Warriors and playoff games for the Dallas Mavericks. 

ALEXANDRA LEGENDRE: Alexandra LeGendre began competitive gymnastics at the age of 7. She later transitioned into competitive dance as she began a career as a gymnastics coach. With years of gymnastics training, gymnastics coaching, and competitive performance in ballet, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, hip-hop and acrobatics, she felt destined to continue her artistic career as an aerial performer. Alexandra currently provides aerial entertainment for countless occasions. She specializes in areas of circus such as aerial silks, lyra, and lollipop lyra, and can offer a range of exquisite and breathtaking acts for any and all occasions.

KRISTI HEATH - Street theatre artist: Kristi Heath has been a professional performer since the age of eighteen, beginning her career with the Second City comedy revue company. After graduating with a theatre degree, Kristi studied street performance with the Odin Theatre of Denmark. She was soon combining her background in comedy and theatre with the skills of stilt dancing, juggling and unicycling. She has been performing her own unique style of physical comedy around the world ever since, and continues to expand her repertoire of skills.

 

GEORGE CROTTY: Canadian cellist/composer George Crotty’s inquisitive eclecticism embraces fiddle-derived ornamentation, the agile one-finger gestures of Indian classical music, adapted electric guitar techniques, and the bold articulations of jazz bass. One half of the Loose Roots Duo with West Coast fiddler Gabriel Dubreuil, and leader of his titular world-jazz inflected Trio, the Toronto-based Crotty’s modernist genre-bending is heavily influenced by his hometown’s vibrant pluralism.

JONELLE SILLS: Canadian Soprano, Jonelle Sills is a graduate of The Glenn Gould School and a recent alumna of the Yulanda M. Faris Young Artist program at Vancouver Opera. In 2020,  Ms. Sills was named one of CBC's "30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30".

Recent highlights include performances with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Micaëla in Carmen: Up Close and Personal at Vancouver Opera and her debut at Ottawa Chamber Fest.

 

CARMEN ROMERO: Carmen Romero is a leading and award-winning established flamenco dance artist whose experience in performance, education, production and adjudication, affirms her position in the national and international dance scene. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Carmen forged new creative pathways with live streaming performances for the National Arts Centre, Canada Performs series, as well the Canadian Stage. As well, she collaborated with Dusk Dances 2021 season presenting “Nuestro Leyenda” filmed by award-winning filmmaker William Yong. 

VERONICA LEE:  Korean-Canadian violist Veronica Lee is an active chamber musician throughout North America and Asia. Performing in acclaimed chamber music festivals, she has collaborated with some of the world’s leading musicians including Martin Beaver, Dong-Suk Kang and Christ Costanza. Veronica holds a Master’s Degree in Chamber Music Performance from the McGill Schulich School of Music, under the guidance of André Roy. She also completed an Artist Diploma from The Glenn Gould School under the guidance of Steven Dann. Currently Veronica is playing with orchestras throughout the Greater Toronto Area including Sinfonia Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and Windsor Symphony Orchestra. 

SÉRGIO XOCOLATE: is a Capoeira Master, International Recording Artist, Singer/Songwriter, Award Winning Composer, Percussionist, Artist-Educator, Social Outreach Facilitator and Artistic Ambassador of Traditional Indigenous & Afro Brasilian Cultural Arts. 

Revelling in an expansive career; his main focus, XOCÔ (formerly ‘Sérgio Xocolate & Casa de Marimbondos’) is an Indigenous Afro Brasilian Psychedelic Punk Rock Band. XOCÔ features a diverse group of multidisciplinary artists: Felipe Sena, Shane Miersch, Andrie Rudyrianto, Ana Maria Higuera & Suzanne Roberts Smith. 

With a penchant for composing songs on the streetcar, Sérgio wrote an entire new album for XOCÔ; merging his poetry, politics, spirituality while paying tribute to his Indigenous Ancestor’s from the Xucuru Nation by breathing new lyrical life into traditional rhythms. Recently released first single and video by Ana Maria Higuera ZUMBI DO BESOURO (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuJhAwfZDlE) has been critically well received in Canada, Brazil and around the world: linktr.ee/xocomusic

 

SUZANNE ROBERTS SMITH is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada & The Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre and a critically acclaimed actor, director, creator/collaborator plus a passionate artist educator & percussionista. Over the past two decades in Tkaronto, Suzanne's studied Traditional Afro Brasilian Percussion from Recife, Pernambuco, Brasil. She's a lifelong learner of these rhythms, instruments and cultural aspects and a livelong listener of how to honour them and pay respect. Suzanne's central teacher, Juno nominated/singer-songwriter & master percussionist Aline Morales bridges the source of Maracatu Nação Estrela Brilhante and rhythms from other Nations and Traditions. Suzanne is a proud founding member of BAQUE DE BAMBA, Las Vulvas and XOCÔ which feels like winning the lottery every time she plays.  If you’d like to check out some of Suzanne’s acting work, she was featured, shortlisted and giving a Totsie Award for her performance in TO LIVE’s Living Room Series: https://www.tolive.com/livingrooms-suzanne-roberts-smith

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