Interview - Ivan Coyote
Feminine Protection, March 25 at RIME, was a unique femme-focused event consisting of spoken word, story telling and a little hip hop by local performers Ivan Coyote, Tara Hardy, Rachel Flood and, as a last minute surprise, Ndidi Cascade. Feminine Protection is just one of the many events that the sixth annual Sista’Hood Celebration had on its agenda this year. Before the show, Anju caught up with Canadian storyteller Ivan Coyote who talked about the importance of celebrations for women and her involvement in the Sista’Hood festival.
Anju: Explain "Feminine Protection"?
Ivan: [Feminine Protection] is part of the Sista’Hood Celebrations for International Women's Day, which now we've expanded into International Women's month, which is great. There's been stuff all month and there's stuff this week; dance parties, and a film festival... and Saturday the 25th is Feminine Protection which is an all-girl, all female anyway, sort of spoken word celebration. We've got Tara Hardy coming up from Seattle Washington, she's kind of really kick ass… slam poet in origin, a really solid great hard hitting performer from Seattle, I really like her stuff. "Kicking ass for the working class", …was how I first heard her introduced. And Rachel Flood, who is a spoken word performer who has been around in the scene for probably 6 or 7 years, [is], again, a really strong stage performer, [and is also the festival director]. Myself… I'm a writer and a storyteller. I prefer "storyteller" for myself as opposed to "spoken word performer". I think storyteller is a little bit more accurate description of what I do.
Anju: What is your involvement with the Sista’Hood Celebration?
Ivan: I've been involved in one way or another with Sista’Hood several times over the years… I've kind of been along for the ride here and there since the beginning. It's quite an amazing thing to see how it's grown over the last couple of years, gone from a couple of events to quite an expansive festival now if you take a look at all the stuff that's going on… in terms of all the kinds of multimedia stuff happening, film festival, and dinners, and… performance. [It’s] very accessible too, I would say, price wise and subject wise, and very varied.
Anju: Why do you think that festivals like Sista’Hood are important?
Ivan: As a performer, I still think it's a good idea to have programming that focuses on stuff that's specifically by and for women. And sometimes… I see the younger women coming up and there's this sense that we still don’t need feminism, that we’re done and that everything's equal, and I just think that's not true. The reality of the world doesn't reflect that at all. I still think there is really a need for festivals and for venues for specifically women to put their work forward. I think that something different happens when it's a, not necessarily women only, but women centered or women focused, kind of festival like this one is. I think the performers [are] not as much [in] competition. That can happen sometimes when you have to compete with all the male voices out there.
Anju: Tell us about your performances as a storyteller.
Ivan: I'm a writer and a storyteller, [and] what I really like to do is to tell stories live on stage. I sort of follow the oral tradition. I come from an Irish family, so I think that's sort of where my roots are at. The content of my stories, well, they're very real life based, they're very character driven and… I like to think of myself as a kitchen table storyteller. They're straight ahead stories about not-so straight ahead topics.
Anju: For those of us who haven’t been to a storytelling performance before, what should we expect when we go to see you perform?
Ivan: [For this performance], I'm gonna be accompanied on one piece by [a]cello player. We had a great rehearsal last night, had a lot of fun. I'm gonna be doing two pieces. When I perform with an accompanist, I try to make it more of a conversation between the performer and musician, and as accent in some places. I don't really see the relationship as, you know, I'm doing something in the foreground and she's doing something in the background. We're doing something together is how I like to think of it, that's how I approach that process of collaborating with a musician. I'm not sure what you mean by what to expect. Expect a story.
Ivan writes for the Georgia Strait and is the author of four books, her fifth will be published later this year so stay tuned!
When I first walked into RIME for Feminine Protection, I was immediately blown away by the diversity of people at the event. Unlike most events, where you find the audience made up of people from pretty much the same crowd, Feminine Protection brought out men and women from different backgrounds, lifestyles, and generations. It was refreshing to be involved in an event with a variety of people all celebrating the same cause. If you look back at the lineup of the multidisciplinary art events that Sista’Hood has offered this year, you’ll soon realize just why the audience was so diverse. The audience is a reflection of the festival, and the festival’s purpose is to encourage gender diversity and equality of women in the arts. This purpose was most certainly fulfilled at RIME on the night of Feminine Protection.
There was an energetic, positive vibe buzzing throughout the venue, the perfect backdrop for a celebration of women in the arts. Rachel Flood, founder of the Sista’Hood festival, made several on-stage appearances as MC, a performer, and, as a special final treat, DJ for surprise performer Ndidi Cascade. All four performers, including Tara Hardy (poet) and Ivan Coyote (storyteller), inspired members of the crowd with their words. I was sitting beside one woman who told me that she had never attended a spoken word type of event before and she didn’t expect it to be as engaging as it was. Despite the fact that the venue was packed, the event was intimate and the performers incorporated the crowd into their performances either by simply making eye contact and addressing specific people in the audience, or by inviting audience members to join them on stage.
Although Veda Hille unfortunately was unable to perform that night, hip hop artist Ndidi Cascade filled in at the last minute with Rachel Flood as DJ. Ndidi Cascade’s stage presence always amazes me, and I am not the only one who finds myself mesmerized by her to the point of hypnotic. Her lyrics flow so smoothly that you eventually get lost in their rhythm, and the content of her lyrics, effectively representing daily issues affecting women, are so easily accessible across generations, cultures and lifestyles. The event was most definitely an inspiring night of poetry, storytelling and music, and I believe that Sista’Hood is successfully getting closer to its goal of promoting visibility of female artists. I recommend that anyone, man or woman, old or young, big or small, catch any event at Sista’Hood when it comes back for it’s seventh year next Spring.
For more information check out www.sistahoodcelebration.com