Responses to Canada’s Colonial Past (and Present): What You Carry and Surrender No. 40

Wilson, Kenneth Clayton
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Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance, University of Regina

This critical engagement paper is intended to accompany the play What You Carry and the solo performance text Surrender No. 40. Part one, the introduction, argues that both texts are intended to contribute to the process of reconciliation between descendants of settlers and Indigenous peoples in Canada, by telling the truth about this country’s colonialist history and by making gestures towards reconciliation. Part two outlines the six methodologies employed while writing these two texts: writing and narrative inquiry, autobiography and/or autoethnography, new play development, historical research, walking-as-performance, and solo or autobiographical performance. Part three discusses two theoretical contexts of the two performance texts: trauma theory and truth and reconciliation. Trauma theory has helped me to understand how Joseph, one of the characters in What You Carry, has responded to the abuse he survived in residential school; it has also been useful in thinking about the family violence Gary and Walter experienced as well. While truth and reconciliation is not a recognized theoretical perspective, it was in my mind while I wrote both texts and during the Muscle and Bone performance. My hope is that, in some small way, these two texts can be part of the truth and reconciliation process in this country—that they might help other settler descendants understand something about Canada’s ongoing colonialist history, as writing these texts has helped me to understand that history.

Master of Fine Arts Projects