Okinum is a story inspired by the women who make up (are the backbone of?) my ancestral line, from my great-great grandmother Mani Pizandawatc down to myself. It is a personal quest about identity and cultural transmission, and the legacy of psychic and embodied knowledge that is passed down from mother to daughter.
In the Anishnabemowin language, Okinum means “dam”, as in a barrier or a structure which blocks. The piece is constructed like a prophecy or series of non-linear scenes as in a dream sequence, and in which the relationship between space and time is conceived in a circular rather than linear fashion. Okinum is an intimate reflection on the notion of internal “dams” and ancestral memory.
Plunging into the history of my great-great grandmother’s life, I discovered many things about myself. I was able to trace many parallels between her life and mine, as if history was repeating itself, cyclically. I felt the need to share these discoveries.
The writing of Okinum is supported by Playwright’s Workshop of Montreal through the Interdisciplinary Writers’ Unit, and the Centre d’écriture des auteurs dramatiques (CEAD). Émilie Monnet also received dramaturgic support from Native Earth through the Weesageechak Begins to Dance festival (Toronto, November 2012). Further development of the work took place during a writing residency at Creative Gros Morne (Newfoundland, April 2016).