Mayworks Festival starts today

Festival opens with tribute to Aboriginal activism

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Still from Martha Stiegman's “Seeking Netukulimk”
  • Still from Martha Stiegman's “Seeking Netukulimk”

The Mayworks Festival is back and organizer Sébastien Labelle says this will be the most diverse festival in the five years the festival’s been running.

“We really are building a festival frame around the events, we want to recognize first where the festival is happening, on Mi’gmaq territory, but also recognize that when we are talking about social justice…what’s really been at the forefront of minds and activists and really an inspiring beacon has been the struggles that have been led by First Nations.”

Including African Nova Scotian, Mi’kmaq and other Aboriginal cultures and different levels of ability focused programming, Labelle hopes this year will cover a very wide spectrum.

The event connects the realms of workers’ rights and activism with the art world and will present everything from short films to a book launch. Artist movements and labour movements have a lot in common and it is readily forgotten that artists are workers themselves.

“This festival is about fostering those kinds of relationships and giving us space for artists to have support and venues for work that is political and that challenges norms,” says Labelle.

Another goal of the festival is to break the stereotypes involved in labour movements and unions says Labelle, since there are many misconceptions about the role of unions, especially in recent months with the nurses' strike and the media’s involvement.

“The media depict[ed] labour leaders as union bosses but this is a complete distortion of what unions actually are, which are very democratic organization composed of the workers themselves and those who speak on behalf of unions are elected by the membership of union to be in those positions.”

Max Haiven, who will be launching his book Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power: Capitalism, Creativity and the Commons as a part of Mayworks, sees the parallel between unions and artists, saying "there is a sense that the ideas of creativity that artists try to embody and cultivate is akin to some of the struggles that labour and unions have had which is to free work from the boss.”

Haiven will be discussing the first couple chapters of his book and considers Mayworks a great opportunity to open up this discussion.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring together the arts community and people struggling in labour and social justice communities,” says Haiven. The dialogue has been strong in Halifax as groups continue to make it happen but there is always more to be done, according to Haiven.

Zach Faye with DaPoPo Theatre want to continue this dialogue with people who come to Café DaPoPo’s politically charged performances.

“Performance is good as a tool to voice those thoughts and ideas in more formed ways…it’s important for people to step outside the box and experience a new way of approaching the topic.”

When artists enter the discussion of workers' issues with other industries, Faye sees that artists have the same issues as anyone else. “It’s not surprising when we have a lot of things in common, a lot of the same grievances, a lot of the same worries about funding, about representation in the union and those sorts of things.”


Faye wants people to see themselves represented in the Café and to walk away with a new perspective on issues of social justice and workers’ rights.

Note: Organizers have secured a location for the photo exhibition "Aftermath: Consequences of a Workplace Injury". It will be at Pier 21, from 1pm-4pm following the Day of Mourning commemoration at Province House on Monday, April 28.

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