Darkspark contributes to an important cross-cultural conversation across Canada. Its arts-educators work with Grade 7 and 8 students in classrooms in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous schools. The multicultural team sensitively and skillfully guides students in creating songs for change and healing that teach, reclaim and reconcile the colonial history, which is still very much a part of Canada's present. The songs inspire both non-Indigenous and Indigenous audiences to share, listen, learn, understand, discuss and participate.
The Four Directions project was conceptualized in collaboration with an elementrary school on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in 2014. Once complete, the participating Grade 8 Mohawk students challenged Darkspark to replicate the project in the four directions of Canada. In response, Darkspark traveled to Indigenous communities from the far North to the South, from the East to the West using pop culture to stimulate discourse and support the diverse voices and stories of Indigenous youth across the country. Requests from communities encouraged Darkspark to evolve the Four Directions project further. The project is being replicated in all provinces and territories and now includes youth in non-Indigenous schools and communities across Canada. All students create powerful art by conceptualizing, writing and recording pop songs about how this history affects them, their families and communities.
The arts educators are seasoned performing musicians whose professional expertise and cultural sensitivity mobilize student engagement. They spend 3 to 5 days in each classroom facilitating experiences that challenge stereotypes and prejudice, and capturing youth’s connection, experience and perspective through songs. Indigenous artists and Elders are part of the Darkspark team.
Darkspark facilitates the sharing of the songs between youth from different schools, within local communities, and online, thereby contributing to cross-cultural dialogue and understanding. Using various outlets - from school and community presentations, to social media and comprehensive interactive curriculum resources - Darkspark takes these musical stories by Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth to a variety of audiences to help bridge the cultural divide. The voices of youth on the issues are very powerful; they educate and touch audiences deeply.
The aim of Darkspark’s Four Directions initiative is to stimulate understanding and a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples. Its vision is for all Canadians to hear and respect the long-ignored perspective of Indigenous Peoples and actively invest in recovery and reconciliation.
"Darkspark's Four Directions program had such a positive influence, not only for the students, but also the school and the community of Potlotek. While students had some general knowledge of Mi'kmaq history, the songwriting project pushed students to learn more and to research their history."
- Pam Basque, Grade 8 Teacher Mi'kmawey School - Potlotek, NS